November 4, 2013

The Intrigue of Impermanent Art. ~ Heather Grimes

She calls this one, “rainbow on a pumpkin.”

A few days ago, just before Halloween, I was taking a stroll with Opal around our neighborhood.

We played a game where we counted all the pumpkins on porches that the squirrels had destroyed. There were so many that it was exciting to come across one that had been spared dismemberment. Many of the ones the squirrels feasted on had had faces carved out of them, and only a single eye and a crooked half-mouth remained.

When I got home and told Jesse about the pumpkins, he said something to the effect of, “Those vermin have no regard for art.” Or perhaps that is just how I interpreted it.

Either way, it got me thinking about the genre of art that is intentionally impermanent. About why someone would choose to create art that is guaranteed to vanish.

And the more I mulled it over, the more examples of temporary art I could come up with.

The following are just a few:

 1. Ice Sculpting

The typical ice sculpture—as in, for a wedding or high school reunion— uses 20″wide by 10″ thick and 40″ tall chunks of ice, that weigh approximately 300 lbs! Circulating the water during the freezing process causes the ice to freeze crystal clear and it takes 3-4 days to make each block!

How long it takes to carve the piece depends on the design, complexity and intricacy of the sculpture. A sculpture such as a flower vase takes approximately two hours to do the actual sculpting. Add the time it takes to make the ice, prepare the pattern, sculpt the ice, prepare the ice for transportation and delivery, it could be anywhere between 5-7 hours involved.  (Info and the following photos from here.)

Once complete, sculptures typically last five to seven hours at room temperature.


I am shocked by how much I love this Eiffel Tower ice sculpture.


And also, creations can be done on a much grander scale.

These images are from the Harbin Ice Festival, in Harbin, China, where there are extravagant snow and ice sculpting competitions.

And behold, the ice architecture at the Harbin Ice Festival!  One more to add to my Travel Bucket List.

Above photos from the Harbin Ice Festival.


The Harbin Ice Festival

My heavens, that is beautiful.

2. Sand Mandalas

This video does better job than I could of depicting the work and intricacy involved in making a sand mandala with the intention of destroying it soon thereafter.


3. Pumpkin Carving

Back to the mention of neighborhood vermin-eaten pumpkins.

Pumpkin carving has come a long way since the days of blunt cuts using only a kitchen knife and a prayer. Now, a pumpkin is a respectable sculpting medium.

The following are all the work of Alfred Paredes.


4. Children’s art

My daughter creates a tiny art gallery’s worth of art each day.

There are some that are precious to her—in which she displays a skill or an idea that was formerly non-existent: the use of color, the use of scotch tape to make it functional (she once made a picture with a funnel taped to it to “hold raisins”), the similarity to a rainbow, the fact that the item drawn remotely resembles that which it is meant to represent.

But, for the most part, she just creates for the sport of creating.

She scribbles, traces, stamps, tapes and folds and then is on to the next one and the one after that without examination or reflection. Most of these, I recycle. (Some I photograph first.) The ones I enjoy the most remain in our environment for longer than perhaps is necessary because of me making a fuss, not necessarily because Opal presents these pieces as anything extraordinary.

She calls this one, “full bunny expression.”

But she is a creating machine; we have to keep the product moving, so to speak, in order to make room for the stream of new art that continuously flows through the door.

One evening, her dad and I were fawning over a drawing she had done while at her grandma’s house of three flowers. They look psychedelic, Dr. Seussian, and yet so simple, and the developmental leap she’d made from her previous drawings of flowers was monumental. These actually had stems and petals.

Opal didn’t seem too taken with this piece of art, but after many minutes of her parents’ examination, she said, pragmatically, “Guys, why don’t you just hang it up by your bed so you can both enjoy it,” and left the room.

It has been scotch-taped by my side of the bed for a week now.  She hasn’t acknowledge it once.  Something tells me she is fully prepared for the day when that picture is next to make its way to the recycle bin.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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