Whether you cried when the first snow fell last week and hid in a small, warm corner of your home, huddled next to a space heater because your furnace wasn’t working, or you jubilantly ran outside and embraced the cold air swiftly hitting your lungs, it’s time to face facts: Winter is coming.
Yet, where there is cold and snow, there are also outdoor art experiences that can be enriched by the season. Rather than succumb to the hiding-out-indoors experience of galleries and museums, there are ways to enjoy seeing art outdoors in a hands-on — er, gloves-on — kind of way. Welcome to winter art-ing!
Outside Walker Art Center, where Nairy Baghramian’s exhibition “Déformation Professionnelle” is currently on view, her newly installed sculpture “Privileged Point” (2014) appears to be winding its way down the hillside.
“With the fall colors in particular, it’s amazing how the colors of the sculptures become much more pronounced on the yellow grass, with the orange maples behind them,” Walker Executive Director Olga Viso said during a visit to the museum last Friday. “I can’t wait to see them in the snow. That’s why she [Nairy] picked the colors.”
Certainly, the sculpture appears brighter in the snow, really popping out from the landscape.
As the snow closed in, I turned my sights to “Hahn/Cock,” the giant blue rooster by artist Katharina Fritsch in the adjoining Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Would it go from a bright blue to a blue-tinged white? Or would the rooster hold its ground, with the white snow melting off before it could stick?
Just as I was pondering the bird, I happened to run into Viso and Fritsch at the Walker’s restaurant Esker Grove (highly recommend the daily soup). I asked Fritsch about how previous versions of the bird have fared during winter. Snow didn’t seem to stick to the rooster placed in Trafalgar Square, she said, but she thought this one might develop a little white cap. “Like a snowhawk?” I suggested. We all laughed as we gazed through the windows at the misty rain slowly turning into white flakes that would soon overtake everything in their path.
By the next day, snow had collected on various parts of the bird’s body, especially the neck. This could be either a bib or a beard, depending on how you’ve decided to gender this non-human non-living art entity.
A super-heady experience
Do you prefer giant heads to birds or oversized squiggly lines? Then get yourself over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where a sculpture’s meaning seems to change under the frigid cover of snow.
“Eros” (1999), named for the Greek god of love by Polish-born artist Igor Mitoraj (1944-2014), is a hollow bronze head laid on its side. Nearly 12 feet long, 7 feet tall and weighing about 4,000 pounds, its exterior appears as if in ruins.
“The artist intended his works to be like in a state of decomposition but also exist sort of as archaeological remains,” said Matthew Welch, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator. “When it snows, it’s like it’s being unearthed, where it’s not all revealed but it’s like the sands of time.”
The art institute will host an ice maze during Super Bowl week Jan. 31-Feb. 5, just down the street from “Eros” by the 24th Street entrance. Images of objects from the forthcoming exhibition “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” a collaboration with famed stage director and designer Robert Wilson that opens Feb. 1, will actually be frozen into the ice.
Art shanties on the lake
“Now I get excited when winter comes,” said Marlaine Cox, operations director for Art Shanty Projects. “The cold weather means good news for Art Shanty — the colder the better.”
Art Shanty transforms frozen lake surfaces into wintry creative communities. Artists submit proposals for shanties that are positioned on the lake, making them temporary art galleries, residencies and overall a fascinating social experiment. The project was started in 2004 by Peter Haakon Thompson and David Pitman. Thompson grew up around Medicine Lake in Plymouth, which was where the shanties were set up until 2012, when they moved to White Bear Lake.
Beginning Jan. 20, Art Shanty will be in south Minneapolis on Lake Harriet, the first time the project has been in the central cities. The crew is hoping for a cold winter, but anything can happen with climate change in a Minnesota winter.
“We want thick ice on the lakes, so we need sustained cold,” said Cox. “We just like it when it’s nice and cold, and we have a good winter.”
No icicles here, folks!
If outdoor sculptures aren’t your thing but parks are, stop by the Berger Fountain in Loring Park, suggests Minneapolis artist Andy Sturdevant. In winter it transforms from what “looks like a dandelion in the summer when the water is going, to a much more severe, geometric shape in the cold months when the water’s off.”