The six or so inches of snow that quieted Louisville over the past two days inspired a spontaneous celebration of a traditional form. The conditions were just right for an impromptu snowman festival! Nearly everywhere I travelled through the city I found these ephemeral sculptures gracing both public and private spaces. Before it became too late in the game, I grabbed my camera and recorded a few images which I’m presenting here. I went through Tyler Park, the Douglas Loop neighborhood, the Highlands, and the Shelby Park area and in a matter of a couple hours and found some interesting creations. I had so much success in a relatively short amount of time and distance, that the possibility of hundreds of snowmen existing scattered throughout the city gave me an extra reason to smile!
For those of you who have followed my riverblog, this may seem like a departure, but it really isn’t. I count the making of snowmen, scarecrows, and other seasonal folk art figures among the influences for my polystyrene art. I’m working with that same impulse towards figurative expression that people acknowledge when they make a snowman. Can this be art? I certainly believe so. A friend of mine once wrote that art was turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. When you mix intention with a user-friendly material like snow, than the creation of art is within most people’s grasp. Eventually, when these things melt, the water that comprises them will at some point reach the river. Considering how much snow has fallen over the Ohio River Valley, I would expect to see high water around here.
The basic idea for a snowman hasn’t changed much. Take three snowballs and stack them in graduated size from largest to smallest and use whatever is on hand to form features and accessorize. The use of a carrot for a nose has become a beloved standard. It’s been interesting to see how closely people have adhered to the snowman ideal and where variation or invention has occurred. Most of what I’ve seen over the last couple of days has been fairly traditional, but there were a few nice surprises to keep things lively. I came across a few snow creations that demonstrated both imagination, teamwork, and skill. Here are a few more single figures.
I imagine children and family at work on these beloved sculptures. It’s no accident that so many of these snowmen are close to the front door of the house. In this way, they are very site specific. They are meant to be seen and commented upon. Most of these snowmen, if they have arms, are rather feeble. For practical reasons, it is just too difficult to make an arm out of snow unless it is a part of the main body. I had to laugh at the one sporting what appears to be a wooden samurai sword! When you pair two or more snowmen together then you create another dynamic. Take a look.
The snow figures above I thought were very successful in a “Miro-esque” sort of way. The work on the right looks like a dog sitting up and begging. These are fairly large works and whoever made them must be an old-hand at snow sculpture because both works also have holes in them as expressive elements. Check out this trio of works. The use of deer antlers on the smallest sculpture is an unusual touch.
And now for a few more animal snow sculptures…how about this seal! It’s very effective and simple. The colorful scarf leads the eye right to the details that form the face. I like the way twigs are used to suggest whiskers.
This bear sculpture by Tyler Park is one of my favorites. I walked by it at night and there were also Christmas lights behind it! Again, the use of twigs provides just the right amount of detail in the form of claws on the paws. I think the eyes might be walnuts? In this piece, the snow arms work.
Resting sphinx-like in front of an apartment building is what I presume is a reindeer or stag. If it weren’t for the small branches suggesting antlers, I would have guessed this is a dog. The lack of any other materials makes me believe this is the unplanned work of a child. It has a smudge for a nose.
Perhaps the oddest piece I encountered was this modest sized figure. What set it apart aside from the more extensive use of clothing, is the mask covering the face. I did a double take on this one because the white mask didn’t fully register until I was right next to it.
I like that there is a time limit to a snowman’s existence. For as long as the weather remains cold, and people leave it alone, then the work will be around to bring a little joy to all who see it. For many adults, it is a pleasant reminder of childhood winters with its promise of missed school days. Around here, the temperatures are dropping into the single digits overnight and there is more snow on the way. For the time being, the city’s snowmen are safe and in good company.
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