A giant lobster rests atop an old-fashioned phone, gracefully sprawled out as if sunbathing. In true Minnesota pandemic-winter style, a large-scale model of Salvador Dalí's "Aphrodisiac Telephone" has become a public artwork made of — you guessed it — ice.
Starting Friday, intrepid cold weather fanatics or just people dying to get outdoors can find icy renditions of the Surrealist artwork and four other masterpieces in various Minneapolis parks.
Followers of the Minneapolis Institute of Art's social media accounts voted on their favorite pieces from Mia's permanent collection, and professional ice sculptor Chris Swarbrick picked five that he could turn into huge ice sculptures.
You can call on "Aphrodisiac Telephone" at Boom Island Park. China's "Celestial Horse" will ride into North Commons Park. Raffaelo Monti's "Veiled Lady" reveals herself at Longfellow Park. A tree from Van Gogh's "Olive Trees" will be "planted" at Washburn-Fair Oaks Park. And Yoshitomo Nara's "Your Dog" — with a red nose made of ice-encased Jell-O — frolics at the northeast corner of Bde Maka Ska.
The sculptures will be on view until March 5 as long as a heat wave doesn't melt them away.
" 'Veiled Lady' was the most challenging," said Swarbrick. "With ice, it's clear and doesn't cast shadows so you have to go deep to get the eyes and things like that, but if I go too deep it looks like she's wearing a mask."
The original iceman, Swarbrick is the owner of Ellsworth, Wis.-based Ice Occasions Midwest, a company that creates ice sculptures for catering companies, pro sports teams, event management and Fortune 500 companies.
Swarbrick is from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, so he's no stranger to the polar vortex, but this is his first time making world-famous art out of ice.
Step into my freezer
The temperature in Swarbrick's ice-carving studio — aka a giant freezer — was at 10 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday as he put the finishing touches on his icy creations.
Like a sculptor carving rock, Swarbrick starts with 300-pound blocks of ice measuring 40 by 20 by 10 inches. He makes them in the 25 tanks located in another part of his studio.
His main tools are a chain saw, a cutting bit, a chisel, a sander, a special ice bit with nubs for shaping, a brush, a big hand saw and a pickle fork with teeth to chip away at the ice. With them, he says he can sculpt almost anything.
Most people in Swarbrick's business learn ice sculpting in culinary school but he took an unusual "backwards" route, as he describes it. A friend of his bought a molded ice sculpture business and roped him in. It seemed easy at first, but soon he had to start teaching himself how to make more customized objects.
"People say, 'That's a beautiful swan you're trying to sell me but can you put a swan on a heart and add [a model of] our dog?' " he said. "I learned to sculpt ice from culinary chefs, competitions around the world, tips and tricks from different places, and now here we are 22 years later."
When Mia officials reached out to him for this project, they weren't sure how COVID might affect it. The museum closed twice in 2020, and reopened just three weeks ago.
"We had been planning this for quite a few months, not knowing if the museum would be open," said Katie Hill, Mia's head of engagement strategy. "We wanted to bring art outside our walls in way that was fun and exciting."
Unlike the original works at Mia, viewers can touch these pieces even though signs will attempt to deter them.
If the weather warms up, the audience that picked the ice sculptures will also get to see them disappear.
"I am excited to see that Dalí melt a little bit," said Hill. "It's very meta, maybe even a bit surreal."
@AliciaEler • 612-673-4437
Ice art in the parks
"Veiled Lady": Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Av. S., Mpls.
"Olive Trees": Washburn-Fair Oaks Park, 200 E. 24th St., Mpls.
"Your Dog": Bde Maka Ska.
"Celestial Horse": North Commons Park, 1801 James Av. N., Mpls.
"Aphrodisiac Telephone": Boom Island Park, 724 NE. Sibley St., Mpls.