For artist Hongtao Zhou, creating magnificent snow sculptures isn’t very difficult in winters as cold as those found in Wisconsin. But when Zhou was commissioned by the Milwaukee Art Museum to produce an installation of dancing ice furniture on its front lawn, things got a little disagreeable on account of the thermostat readings. In the face of unseasonably warm temperatures and a front lawn almost completely surrounded by windows, Zhou continued undeterred deciding that this year’s furniture should embrace the heat and turn all that melting into a way convey the issue of global warming.
Drawing ice water from Lake Michigan with a bucket on a rope, Zhou set out to create his droopy-drippy furniture. But as the artist quickly realized in constructing his pieces, no deliberate message on his part was necessary – his materials were ultimately dictating the final form. He writes, “Once the water and snow were mixed well, I shaped the slash around a slim tree branch to help the curved legs and stretchers stand. Cold wind started to help solidify the new structures.” What resulted were organic shapes created by natural elements.
While the installation melted away in February, Zhou hopes that this project will continue to remind people of the increasingly severe environmental issues we are facing as well as what’s to come if we don’t start to change the way we live.