A few thoughts about a recent sculpture I made and installed for Dawson City’s Riverside Arts Festival. “To your health!” was a toast to anyone who’s found their heart too frozen to speak. A public toast, and a poetic service.
Stain the wood. Stain the air with the scent of wine. Walk up closer and it changes from sight alone to sight plus body-presence plus smell, something visceral about that smell. Eyes above and dripping below. Ice that’s too big to fit into your glass; you will waste this wine? someone asks, and I respond – it’s being used.
The trough-like wooden sculpture, temporarily installed at Dawson City’s waterfront park during the Riverside Arts Festival from Aug 14-16, contained 11 blocks of frozen wine.
It was a slow drawing machine. 33 litres of wine melted into drawings over the 3 days; I refreshed the frozen wine each morning. There were two days of rain but the wine still stained so I let it stay outdoors, surrounded by weather.
As the wine melted, the liquid gradually seeped out through small holes in the trough’s sides. Lengths of butcher’s string acted as wicks. 77 separate strings carried the wine down and carried the wine down onto sheets of watercolour paper, forming drawings.
We all experience the fascination of the blot, the drip. A friend comes to watch. We talk about all the fuss about James Heilman “revealing” the Rorschach blots on Wikipedia and she, a psychoanalyst, says, “but don’t they know there have been books on the blots available for decades?” The strings twist together in the wind and almost like braids. The knot punctuates and catches the eye.
Wine reveals secrets. The drawings are complete when someone takes one because they like it. Another friend sees a bird with a long torso. Another sees a tower, then a bottle of wine – the medium drawing an image of its original container.
Soft-hued drawings lasted through a day of rain and remain for now, but will fade in a matter of months. Two drawings drowned fruit flies. I thought: I love being here but I may drink myself to death, though that would only work as a retirement plan.
Sleekness but also leakage. Mess that glows because it’s wet; mess that stains and melts deeper into the wood, not wider across the path. The drawings give the “waste” a purpose and so it’s less wasteful – they are objects now of beauty I can pass around to prolong the moment. The number of people who will be here “in the now” with me/ with you is so small, it feels so lonely. There must be a level of connection that isn’t viscerally, nauseatingly intimate.
Time is delectable. Through this drooping, this leaking, this toast to your ongoing robustness of health empties itself yet somehow it feels neither sad nor impoverished. Instead, the drawing gives you a handful of time, wordless slow time that you inhabited somewhere, even though you weren’t standing right here beside the melting.
P.S. Special thanks are due to many, including:
- Jody Beaumont for continuous access to her deep freeze for more than a week to make the wine-and-water ice squares;
- Brandon Vickerd (pictured below), a fantastic sculptor and one of this summer’s KIAC artist-in-residents who made a work called “Northern Satellite” for this year’s edition of The Natural and The Manufactured – for helping me build, then install, the box – thus exponentially increasing my woodworking skills;
- April Russell for also helping with setup, including cutting and threading the string for the 77 leaking drawing wicks.