Lessons in Ice

more iceDry clouds have descended on Chicken Ridge, giving the air and sky a visual neutrality that inspires contemplation rather than awe. At least that is how the opaque cover affects me. Aki only reacts to smells and my voice. We pass the colorful craftsmen houses on Basin Road and I notice, for the first time, that someone has painted her access stairs the brightest purple. Not even the cloud’s grey blanket can diminish its strength. Is that why it is a royal color?

Once over the old trestle bridge, only the green of some stubborn ferns and mosses stand out in the glom. Almost hidden in a moss-covered niche, we do find two wedges of ice. They are all that remains of the ice and frost formed during our first cold snap. Melt water varnishes the ice with a jewel like luster. I think of Néle Azevedo’s minimum monuments. With molds and vast freezer space, the Brazilian installation artist creates thousands of ice sculpts of people. Hundreds or even thousands of volunteers help her install them in a public area where they melt to water. (“Made to Disappear,” Sculpture Review, Fall 14 Vol. IXIII No. 3). In Birmingham, England, one of her installations inspired reflection on the human loss during the First World War. In other places they reminded people of the risks people face from global warming.ice

Normally I don’t get installation artists but Ms. Azevedo’s work excites. Like Elizabeth Kübler Ross, I want to accept the inevitability of death so I can appreciate life. What better learning tool than one of Azevedo’s minimal monuments. The volunteers who help placed the ice people watch the installation, first with the pride of ownership, then as the sculpted nudes begin shinning with melt water, the excitement produced by beauty. Soon exhausted by those emotions, they relax into acceptance and then relief when all that’s left is water. Then they can reflect on predictable loss.fog


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