Contemporary Art “On the Rocks”: Artists Play with Ice and Snow

While all us “common” people shudder from the cold “Polar Vortex” and tuck ourselves away indoors, the creative wheels are probably turning in the minds of many contemporary artists.  They are wondering, “how can I encapsulate this meteorological phenomenon! ”  The most recent wave of sub-freezing temperatures led me to wonder how cold weather and freezing landscapes can create more of a conversation than just idle water-cooler banter.  So here are a few choice artists who exploit natures’ onslaught of ice and snow – or just create work in the places where these “wintry” conditions are in no way peculiar.

Olafur Eliasson – Your Waste of Time

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Olafur Eliasson, Your Waste of Time (Photo Source:

Earlier in 2013, Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson exhibited at PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York City his large-scale installation of castaway remnants of Iceland’s largest glacier.  There is a serene beauty to the preservation of these 800-year old chunks of ice – records of a history we can scarcely wrap our minds around.  Kept in a highly refrigerated gallery space they look oddly at peace and are a silent reminder of the passage of time.

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle – Icebergs

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Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Iceberg (Photo Source:

And when we can’t get our hands on an actual iceberg, artists like Spaniard Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, are there to recreate their immensity.  By scanning an actual iceberg adrift in the Labrador Sea, Ovalle reconstructed a 25-foot sculpture of the ice giant in collaboration with a Chicago-based architect.  Installed at The Art Institute of Chicago, Ovalle used sonar and radar technology to generate sounds created by the iceberg.

Simon Beck’s Snow Art


Simon Beck, Snow Art (Photo Source:

Hailing from Berkshire, England, artist and map designer, Simon Beck, looks forward to nothing more than an expanse of freshly-fallen snow. With a good pair of snow shoes and a compass, Beck creates massive crop-circle sized patterns in the snow that are impressive in both their scale and detail.  From afar, they look like giant snow-mandalas and I am sure there is something very contemplative in walking in a pattern for up to 10 miles at a time.

Jim Denevan – Land Art at Lake Baikal, Siberia


Jim Denevan, Ice Work at Lake Baikal, Siberia (Photo Source:

Taking a slightly different approach to his land artworks, American artist Jim Denevan has worked in soil, sand, and ice. His often improvisational technique is more like a dance, creating spirals and circles of temporary movement in the landscape.   In a 2010 work, Jim Denevan used frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia as his canvas, tracing a fibonacci spiral from small circles in the center to larger circles of  several miles diameter.  This is truly elegant mathematics.

Nele Azevedo - Melting Man


Nele Azevedo, Melting Man, Berlin 2009 (Photo Source:

Sometimes even the thickest ice begins to melt and ever more so now with global temperatures rising. In 2009 1,000 little ice men perched on the steps of Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt Square by Brazilian artist, Nele Azevedo,  Gradually melting into small puddles, Melting Man was installed to remind us of the impact of Global Warming. Nearly 5 years on, it’s hard to say we have learned our lesson…

So in the wake of this Polar Vortex, get outside and make some snow angels at the very least!