Dec 2, 2011

TREND | Ice Sculpture Melting Points

Nele Azevedo, Melting Men, installation photograph from Berlin, Germany, 2009.
Ice sculptures have a distinct presence in our contemporary culture. Ice Sculptures are used for decorative reasons or they can have functional purposes. Sculptures made from block ice originated in the field of culinary arts as a decorative way to keep foods cool while sitting out on a buffet. Ice sculptures are popular at special or big events because of their limited life span before melting. Although most ice sculptures are created by artists for entertainment or decorative purposes, this blog entry focuses on three contemporary ice sculptures created by artists who use this medium to demonstrate current social issues; Main Street Meltdown by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese (Ligorano/Reese), Melting Men by Nele Azevedo, and Ice Bear by Mark Coreth and Duncan Hamilton.

Main Street Meltdown took place in New York in front of the Supreme Court building next to Wall Street on October 29, 2008, seventy-nine years after the infamous stock market crash beginning the Great Depression. Ligorano/Reese sculpted individual letters out of ice blocks spelling “ECONOMY” and left them outside for twenty-four hours until the “economy” was literally melted. This temporary ice sculpture monument was the fourth piece in a larger series consisting of works that deal with political issues.

Ligorano/Reese, Main Street Meltdown, Installation photograph in New York, 2008.
Melting Men by Nele Azevedo was part of a project called Minimum Monument, which included ice sculpture installations where the artist explored the role of important monuments in major cities. Instead of creating permanent monumental structures Azevedo used ice to create perishable sculptures in important locations throughout cites that only last less than an hour. This particular photo of Melting Men was taken in September of 2009 at the Berlin Opera House. Passing spectators watched thousands of miniature men ice sculptures sitting on the steps melt. Although Melting Men was not originally meant to be associated with global warming issues, the Berlin project was executed in junction with the World Wildlife Fund to bring awareness to such environmental issues.

Mark Coreth and Duncan Hamilton, Ice Bear, Installation photograph in Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009.
For an installation time lapse video of Ice Bear in Copenhagen click here
Ice Bear by British artists Mark Coreth and Duncan Hamilton was displayed outside the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) as part of The Ice Bear Project. The conference held on December 7, 2009 drew attention to current environmental problems and the human impact on climate change. The life-sized bear sculpture was made from a casted metal skeleton and ice and stood at a height of five feet and nine inches. The ice sculpture melted during the span of the conference revealing the more terrifying metal skeleton, dramatically drawing attention to climate issues. People were encouraged to interact and touch the bear to help melt the ice through human impact.

These three ice sculptures have deep conceptual social issue meanings, but are done in a way that they can still be enjoyed as ordinary ice sculptures. Many traditional ice sculpture characteristics are still present in these contemporary art examples. Marshall Reese, one of the artists of Main Street Meltdown, explains the relationship ice sculpture have with viewers:
What we like about these sculptures is that they are very popular in the best sense of the world, people love to touch them, but in the shape of a work, to see them meltdown and vanish, they take on a completely different meaning.
These pieces certainly make a dramatic statement but in a more complex way than just the centerpiece of a special event. All three of these pieces begin as a solid ice sculpture, but they melt into specific points regarding social issues. Through this, they demonstrate the terrifying results of not addressing these problems. The ice is important to these sculptures because they are, by nature, temporary monuments that relate to an issue of limited time to deal with these problems. These ice sculptures are made with a specific agenda: to educate and demonstrate contemporary problems in our society through the use of art.

-Melissa Weatherall


  1. ContributorDec 2, 2011 08:27 AM
    Ice sculpting is a blast! If anyone has not tried it please do sometime in your life. The beauty of ice sculpture is its time span. It exist just as long as the Sun or external surroundings allows it to. I suggest to the reader to research more ice Sculptures and see what amazing art these creators are providing us.

    -Devin Glenn
  2. ContributorDec 2, 2011 09:04 AM
    I really enjoyed this blog! I hadn't seen any ice sculpting that wasn't for weddings or parties before reading this. It is interesting to me how they aren't permanent and like you said "melt into specific points regarding social issues".

    --Sara Beth Worcester
  3. ContributorDec 2, 2011 10:59 AM
    Neat topic! Like Sara, I too was unaware that artists have been using ice sculptures to create art and make their statements whether political or social. Dynamic art such as this is always interesting as it evolves throughout the life of the piece.

    -Blake Williams
  4. ContributorDec 3, 2011 06:20 AM
    I had never heard of this either! I had always thought ice sculptures were a little cheesy, but the way these are used to highlight important issues has changed my perspective on this type of art.

    -Theresa Newton
  5. ContributorDec 3, 2011 04:53 PM
    Sculptures always have to take into consideration of the material history of their media. Knowing that ice sculptures have a deep rooted connotation with commercial center pieces may hold a bit of a challenge to stray the audiences attention away from what they already know. But the way that these contemporary artists are tackling these double social issues are very cleverly sought out quite well.

    -Liliane Ledesma
  6. ContributorDec 4, 2011 01:15 AM
    Ice sculpturing seems so complicated to create. I would not know where to even begin, but this is a very neat post. I like how all the subjects are melting way or going unnoticed. Particularly the Economy one which seems to emphasize how some have gone to crap.

    -Brittany Rutledge
  7. ContributorDec 4, 2011 06:24 PM
    Like others, I've never heard of ice sculpting used for anything else other than weddings or parties. I've always been interested in more ephemeral art, so this post immediately caught my eye. I found it really interesting that, although Azevedo never meant for it to happen, Melting Men was still associated with global warming. Also, I, too, liked what you said about the work "melt[ing] into specific points regarding social issues."

    -Sarah Martinez
  8. ContributorDec 5, 2011 05:13 AM
    How neat! I think you had great photo examples! Specifically the "Ice Bear." Great creative trend idea! I loved it, well done!

    - Erin Davis
  9. ContributorDec 5, 2011 05:56 AM
    How cool! This post caught my eye immediately. I have always been so intrigued by ice sculptures. It is a true talent. I was working at a wedding expo, and had a booth right next to a company that sold ice sculptures. I could not stop staring at them and touching them, and I became almost obsessed with watching the sculptures melt away over hours. I love how you talk about social issues being represented by the melting process, regardless whether they were meant to represent those meanings, or not. Very nice post! It makes you think a lot more about this.

    -Brittany Drake
  10. cestlaviemarieDec 5, 2011 05:58 AM

    This made me think of the ice hotel in Sweden. Its a beautiful and masterful piece of temporary architecture that you should all check out. There is also a really fascinating documentary on it if your interested in seeing how it is built. I don't remember the name of the documentary though. Sorry.

    -Sara Marie Miller
  11. Katie Lewis 85Dec 5, 2011 08:07 AM
    The whole idea of ice sculpture as an art sort of makes me smile and frown at the same time. What I mean by that is some of the works I've seen are so absolutely beautiful and awe inspiring, but then they're gone. POOF! Makes me almost sad to see works disapear, but I guess that's the point of the work.

    -- Katie Lewis
  12. ContributorDec 5, 2011 11:04 AM
    Ice sculpture is amazing! I have seen an artist working on ice sculptures when I was in high school and it required the artist so much detailed and concentrated skills. Since I have this experience, your blog definitely drew my eyes into it. Adding social/political issues into the ice sculptures which will be disappeared is very cool!

    -Jihyun Woo
  13. ContributorDec 5, 2011 05:02 PM
    What a neat trend to research and write about! I really liked that you realized in the beginning that ice sculpting is normally the center piece for weddings or Christmas contests but you focused on the political ones. I really feel like you did your research and i liked the pictures as well
    -Abigail Cannon