Frozen Art: Wall of Ice

Most works of art long outlive their makers. But some artists like to watch their masterpieces melt away. They give new meaning to the term “cool art.”

An ice wall in the desert? It sounds impossible. But that's not a word Dale Chihuly likes to hear. The American artist got the idea to build a wall of massive ice cubes as part of his Jerusalem 2000 project. Since water is scarce in Jerusalem, Chihuly imported his own huge ice bricks, cut from a frozen lake in Alaska. Then, the artist and his team stacked the cubes together to make a wall, aglow with colored lights, in the shadow of the ancient city gate. Though the ice thawed quickly in the hot desert sun, its melting was all part of the plan. As the wall melted, big barrels collected the water, which was then used to irrigate a nearby hillside.

You're walking down the street, minding your own business, when you see a snowball. No big deal, right? Except the snowball is as tall as you are. And weighs about a ton. Did we mention that it's June?

That's the experience thousands of stunned Londoners had when they crossed paths with “Snowballs in Summer,” the brainchild of artist Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy makes sculpture from all sorts of things he finds outside—leaves, earth, and rocks, as well as ice and snow. He wanted to find out how busy city people would react to an unexpected snowball melting in their midst.

During the winter of 1999, he rolled 13 giant snowballs near his home in Scotland. He filled each one with a surprise in the center—such as pebbles, berries, feathers, or sheep's wool—which would emerge as the snow melted. The finished snowballs were stored in a deep freeze until summer, then transported to London in refrigerated trucks. At midnight on June 21, 2000, while the city slept, Goldsworthy and his co-conspirators rolled their snowballs into place.

People walking to work or school must have thought the sky was falling when they stumbled across snowballs the size of baby elephants. Some of them had never even seen snow in real life, and they couldn't resist poking the snowballs or even breaking off a chunk. As the snow started to melt, things got even more interesting. The perfectly round snowballs took on different shapes as the stuff inside began to poke through. Two days later, most of Goldsworthy's snowballs were gone, and their fillings scattered. But Londoners were left with a really good story about that odd summer day when the snowballs came.

Vocabulary

irrigate:
To supply with water by means of a system of ditches, pipes, and canals.

scarce:
Not enough to meet a demand.

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Activity

  1. What caused this sculpture to change from one state of matter to another?
  2. Could this sculpture change back to its solid state? How? Would it look the same or different? Write a few sentences to explain your answer.