Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

DU art professor helps create ice sculpture in Vail, Colo.

ice sculptures

Lawrence Argent and his family cavort at Verdant Meadows, an ice sculpture in Vail, Colo., that Argent co-created. PHOTO BY: Peter M. Fredin.

Lawrence Argent, [a University of Denver art professor], and Scott Rella’s Verdant Meadows, a first-time collaboration between the two artists, brings humor and magic to winter in Vail. The project combines Rella’s expertise in ice sculpture with Argent’s long experience in public art to creative and dynamic effect.

Argent says, “It was interesting for me to grasp some of what can be done in the material of ice. Knocking around ideas with Scott made me very aware of its materiality and vocabulary.” The completed work transforms the snow and ice of a Colorado winter into surprising, towering green plant forms.

The finished works, 17 separate grass-blade sculptures, are illuminated by vibrant green LED lights installed inside their bases. Argent explains that LED lighting was integral to the design process, allowing them to “control the color and hence utilize the medium of ice to both hold and illuminate.” Each of the blades, up to 15 feet high individually, is built from nine-inch-tall blocks that catch the colored light at their joins and reflect it throughout the piece.

The artists selected a creek-side location, which gives their meadow an extra air of mystery and implies that the blades sprout from beneath the snow-covered ground. Working with ice on an unstable base of snow was a challenge for Rella; he “had to create a base for each piece, which we then froze into the ground, to act as a foundation.” Rella’s particular objective was to make the work feel organic, to give the impression that the forms “belong here. It has a very natural feel… They are part of the landscape until they melt away.”

The shapes echo the surrounding trees and baffle viewers’ sense of scale. The environmentally friendly aspects of the work are also a plus: LEDs stay cool enough for the sculpture to remain frozen, and they use substantially less energy than other types of lighting.

Verdant Meadows provides an ephemeral, green environment in a barren season of cold and snow. As Argent says, “Rather than just the placement of objects on the site, it was more about integration and the humorous juxtaposition of something verdant in this contrasting season.” The work is planned to remain on view until the sculptures melt.

[Editor’s note: This article is courtesy of Sculpture, a publication of the International Sculpture Center.]

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