it's cold out there!
In the deep darkness of December, thirteen impish little guys cause all kinds of ruckus across the frosty heaves of Iceland. These pranksters, the Yule Lads, spend the holidays swiping and gobbling their way through the night, sneaking treasures into the shoes of children, both naughty and nice.
Warming his stiff legs by an open fire, I was lucky enough to meet my first Yule Lad in 2013, Stekkjarstaur in Dimmuborgir among the snowy lava spires. Something magical was in that flame, sparking my inner elf and awakening the mischief in my creativity.
What tiny gems can I leave behind for the wide-eyed and young at heart to stumble upon unexpectedly? A sparkling surprise for just a tiny moment before lacing up their boots and moving on?
Medium rare anyone?
My love of ice as an artistic medium is longstanding, maybe born from:
- Holiday seasons growing up when my mom would freeze pine needles and holly berries in an ice ring for the spiked punch bowl?
- Watching icicles form through a frosty window, one tiny drip of water at a time, only to melt in exactly the same way?
- Climbing snowbanks to pluck them from the roof’s edge and enjoying nature’s homemade popsicle?
If childhood memories primed the pump, discovering the ephemeral beauty of Andy Goldsworthy’s site-specific land art sealed the deal. His creation of exquisite artwork made exclusively of organic materials, only to be exposed and lovingly manipulated by nature’s fingertips, is at the core of my artistic inspiration.
I was hooked…ice hook(ed) to be exact.
Installation is my insulation
In my second year of art school, in the frigid climate of Montana, I placed my first ice installation. Studying photography, I opted to embed Polaroid transfers from a trip to Russia, in hopes they would blow away when thawed, perhaps found or lost forever. But, it was the deep carmine flower petals frozen in the ice blocks and the crimson pigment outlines acting as their pedestals that felt pure to me.
Exactly 23 years later, my second ice installation was created, placed and thawed in the most enchanting polar landscape I’ve been lucky enough to explore: Iceland. More than twenty icy art bundles were scattered across the Westfjords and Snæfellsnes Peninsula, left behind to let Mother Nature collaborate in any way she felt fit.
Who am I to argue?
Out of control
As artists, we may never have full control over our medium. If we hang on too tightly, we can squash creativity, wonder and the excitement of discovery. Perhaps I hide behind the delicate property of ice, allowing its inconsistency to be the twinkling star of my work?
Regardless, the breathtaking moment I open the freezer, seeing how the water has transformed and the crackling magic of the unexpected is revealed - this is why I come back again and again. My heart skips a tiny beat to see how the infused material dances with the water on their icy date. It's not unlike peeking into your shoe to see what morsel was left behind by a roguish Christmas troll.
So, that brings us back to the mischief in this tale. If my desire to leave small marks of visual candy has an altruistic tinge, the devilish side of this artist is also smirking ear to ear. I mean…I run around (sometimes stumbling), uninvited (typically), probably on private land (some of the time), defacing nature (sort of) and littering creativity all over the place.
Sounds like graffiti to me!
If you look up ‘sneaky’ out there in the virtual world, there isn’t much with a positive twist. Seems in general, sneaking around is kind of frowned upon.
But, I’d like to reframe it for you:
- Sneaking treats from the cookie jar is absolutely expected, no matter what age you are.
- Sneaking around your neighborhood on a sweltering night playing flashlight tag is how every kid should spend the summer.
- Sneaking out to meet your lover is downright romantic.
Sugar and spice and everything nice
You see, sneaking any kind of ‘sugar’ is kinda sweet. Just ask any of the Yule Lads! They are sneaking into my comment box every night...