By Rachel Leah Blumenthal

BOSTON (CBS) – Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There) begins with Alice sitting in a very normal-looking room, talking to kittens. Sixteen paragraphs later, she’s through the looking glass, all mixed up with kings and queens, and beautiful, magical nonsense.

The Chihuly glass exhibit, running at the Museum of Fine Arts through August 7, is certainly beautiful and magical, although it brings to mind the whimsy of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the original film adaptation; not the creepy recent version) more than Alice’s world on the other side of the looking glass.

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Where Alice’s journey is full of turmoil and oddities, Charlie and the children enter Wonka’s land of wonder. Upon entering the room housing the Mille Fiori sculpture of the Chihuly exhibit, I felt like I was going into Wonka’s chocolate room (cue Pure Imagination), running around to look at all the strange and colorful things. Nothing “eatable” here, though.

Back to Alice for a moment. Through the Looking Glass ends with a poem:

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

I’ve omitted the middle stanzas, but this lovely poem fits nicely with the piece that opens the Chihuly exhibit, the Ikebana Boat. Bursting at the seams with glass flowers and baubles and twisty ornamental bits, Chihuly’s boat sits silently on a reflective black platform, a still stream stretching seamlessly to some other world.

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Dale Chihuly - IkebanaBoat

Dale Chihuly's Ikebana Boat (credit: Rachel Leah Blumenthal)

Visitors walk though the exhibit as if under a spell. The room of chandeliers is hypnotic, and the vases demonstrate a more practical, home-sized implementation of Chihuly’s kaleidoscopic vision. The exhibit trusts the viewers: the no touching rule is in effect, I assume, but there are no signs or walls. The fragile glass is right there in front of us, one clumsy kid away from devastation.

Catch this breathtaking exhibit now through August 7; it’s included in the regular cost of museum admission ($20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, free under 17 during certain hours). Wednesday nights after 4pm are free, though it tends to be a madhouse. If you’d like to enjoy the art in solitude, you’re probably better off going at an odd hour.

Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Mon – Tue 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Wed – Friday 10 a.m. – 9:45 p.m.
Sat – Sun 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.
(617) 267-9300
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Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit