Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lincoln in sculpture – Fleeting and lasting

One of the benefits of this Lincoln blog is the fellow Lincoln buffs I’ve met – scholars, authors, photographers, educators, fellow Lincoln bloggers. It’s really neat when they share their enthusiasm, experience, knowledge and tips.

Weigers captures Lincoln images
Recently, one of my readers tipped me off to a fleeting Abraham Lincoln sculpture here in Illinois – a sculpture made of snow. The reader, David Wiegers of Gurnee (Ill.), has crossed the country taking photographs of more than 200 sculptures of the 16th President. He’s planning to publish them in a book, with a tentative title, “A Life Worth Remembering - the Monumental Legacy of Abraham Lincoln.” In the meantime, you can see his work and many of the statues he’s captured at the “Looking for Lincoln” PBS film website. More on this Kunhardt-produced film with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Harold Holzer and others later.

Weigers learned of a Lincoln snow portrait being crafted in Aurora (Ill.) this week. I sent email to the media contact this morning to make sure it was still on. It is, so here’s the scoop from the Aurora Public Art Commission.

The nitty-gritty snowy details
  • What: Abraham Lincoln ‘Snow Portrait in Progress’
  • Where: Next to the David L. Pierce Center, Aurora (Ill.)
  • When: Monday – Friday, Jan. 26 - 30, 2009
  • Meet the artists: Snow portrait reception on Friday, Jan. 30 from 3 – 7 p.m.

The rest of the snow scoop*
In honor of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial the Aurora Public Art Commission has commissioned a portrait of Lincoln, to be carved in snow by sculptor Joseph Gagnepain. This large-scale bust will be located in APAC’s sculpture garden, which is adjacent to the Pierce Center at 20 East Downer Place .

Gagnepain, a local freelance artist, has been carving snow for the past four years. With his teammates from Eau Claire, (Wisc.) "The Starvin' Carvists” have participated in multiple national and international snow sculpting competitions and commissions in Michigan, Illinois, and Italy. Last year his team placed first and second in an international competition held in two villages in Northern Italy.

To create the Aurora Public Art Commission’s Lincoln Bicentennial snow portrait, Gagnepain is assembling a team of local talent including Ed Pineada, Pete "Blast" Barrett and Marcus Mason. After foot packing (imagine stomping grapes for wine) the snow into a concrete form with snow plowed off of Mastodon Lake, the artists will use a model and photographs to scale the image onto the eight-foot block of snow. Differing from ice sculpting, the artists only employ hand tools - shovels, scrapers, horse brushes, saws, and homemade sanders.

In writing about his outdoor winter works, Gagnepain has stated: "I love snow sculpting, being close to nature, enjoying crisp/dry winter air, and being hands on with the pristine beauty of wonderful, white snow. I look forward to a good, snowy, cold winter each year."

Joseph Gagnepain is honored to have the opportunity to create a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. A long time admirer of this former president, he has always wanted to use him as the subject for a work of art. The project also strikes a personal chord of pride for Gagnepain, as ancestors on his mother's side are cousins to Mary Todd Lincoln.The Lincoln portrait will be on display as long the cold weather holds.

* Thanks to Kathleen Swigart of the Aurora Public Art Commission for the information on the snow sculpture and a special thanks to my friend Dave Wiegers for the tip.


Kathy Haas said...

Thanks so much for this post. I just wrote a post about Lincoln and snow (including a picture of a Lincoln snowman) on my 21st-Cneutry Abe blog, but I had no idea about this event. I'm rushing over to my blog to add an update right now!

Lincoln Buff 2 said...

Thanks to Kathy Haas of the Rosenbach museum for the link to my blog and for including info about the snow sculpture on 21st Century Abe,

I heard from the folks in Aurora today. They said, "The sculpture will be finished tomorrow but is already quite spectacular." If you're a reader up near Aurora, why not go see it?