Using nature to inspire art is nothing new. The practice goes way back to the cave paintings of aurochs, horses and deer at Lascaux, which are beautiful line drawings. Monet was inspired by  water lilies and haystacks. Van Gogh created the “Starry Night.” Ansel Adams took pictures of simple things like leaves and rocks, but they look different through his camera lens. Georgia O’Keeffe showed us what a flower really looked like up close.

Leonardo da Vinci was inspired by nature and went on to say the natural world was more than inspiration. “Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.”

With all of the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty, it’s no surprise that it serves as inspiration for so many artists and art installations.

One of Seattle’s best-known pieces is the “Black Sun” in Volunteer Park. This piece is ring shaped, nine feet in diameter, and carved from a single piece of Brazilian black granite that originally weighed 30 tons. Isamu Noguchi drew inspiration from traditional Japanese gardens. The “Black Sun” was created and placed with the location in mind to allow observers to see the Space Needle, and downtown Seattle along with the mountain and water views.

As one of Seattle’s most famous artists, it’s no surprise that Dale Chihuly has found inspiration for his artwork in the surrounding area. One of his best-known pieces is the “Icicle Creek Chandelier,” an outdoor glass installation at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth.  

“Icicle Creek Chandelier” by Dale Chihuly. (Copyright 2020 Chihuly Studio / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)
“Icicle Creek Chandelier” by Dale Chihuly. (Copyright 2020 Chihuly Studio / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

The installation was originally envisioned while Chihuly was talking with the resort’s owner, Harriet Bullitt. Together they agreed it would be an indoor piece for the Camp Field stone chapel. Later as Chihuly was driving over Blewett Pass he got the idea to install the piece outside and called Bullitt on his cellphone. She agreed and when Chihuly found the right boulder to hold the giant sculpture – a rock that gets sunlight from all directions, they got to work. It was to be a treelike piece but made to look more like icicles.  

“That’s the place,” Chihuly said in his book about the piece, “Icicles: The Icicle Creek Chandelier.” “The chandelier will be glass – no colors – because the sun and the outdoors will give it ever-changing colors.”

Then Chihuly’s team drilled down three feet into the granite rock with a six-inch stainless steel pipe that rose 10 feet out of the surface. The glass icicles were installed to hang down straight near the post but then flare up at the top.

It snowed six feet the day they installed the piece but that wasn’t a problem.

“The ‘Icicle Creek Chandelier’ survived the winter,” Chihuly said. “It surprised the deer who were very curious but not one of the 1,000 pieces broke that year.”  

The “Icicle Creek Chandelier” isn’t the only piece at Sleeping Lady that was inspired by nature. Another favorite is the “Seven Returning Salmon” by Oregon carver Gene Drake.

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“The ‘Seven Returning Salmon’ is one of my favorite pieces,” Chuck Schuringa, the general manager of the resort says. “It’s a single piece of soapstone and he carved seven salmon continuously jumping from the water.”

Another popular piece is “The Emissaries” – a bronze sculpture of ravens. Helsel says Bullitt worked with her good friend, Tony Angell, to create the raven statues that greet visitors near the entrance of the resort.

“When people come to the Sleeping Lady and get out here in the nature and the art,” Schuringa says, “You see them relax. When they arrive they hold their shoulders up by their ears, but within hours of walking the grounds, they relax and breathe and they’re blown away by the art and want to know the stories behind it all.”

Sleeping Lady embodies the natural beauty and history of Leavenworth and the Wenatchee Valley. The Kingfisher Restaurant & Wine Bar features gourmet meals created with the freshest local ingredients, many from Sleeping Lady’s own two-acre certified organic garden.