Snowy, blowy, icy, showy

Local artists go up to the lake

Neil Munshi

An icy swarm of powder eddies around your tires, the frigid breeze stings your face and the slow gurgling of Medicine Lake eases your mind as you drive across the frozen surface toward the Art Shanty Project.

The project is a winter exhibition from No Name Exhibitions at the Soap Factory, a large, non-profit Minneapolis art gallery. It also features stylized ice fishing shanties, frozen vellum paintings and various sculptures created by 24 local artists. It opened Saturday and runs tentatively until Feb. 19, depending on ice conditions.

The idea was originally conceived by co-curator Peter Haakon Thompson, a local artist and photographer, as an escapist art studio and outdoor hangout.

“I wanted to do something Ö I wasn’t so serious about, and I was talking to some of my friends about creating an ice shanty art studio to go hang out at – to play cards and drink beer,” he said. “It’s always a struggle as an artist to get away from everything and just think and write and draw.”

Thompson’s initial idea was expanded upon by co-curator and participating artist David Pitman into an open-air gallery on ice.

“It’s a gorgeous temporary landscape that is used for many things,” Pitman said. “We saw it as an opportunity for not just artists, but architects and other people to come out and do something.”

Clustered wooden ladders spring from the frozen lake;

a rigid, jagged ice spear forces its way up from the surface; a Mylar-sheathed shanty reveals an interior lined with cozy clothing and a bare-floor window into the still depths of the lake.

Artist Chris Pennington said he was happy with the results because it removes the posturing of the art community.

“I think it’s really good – no one goes to galleries anymore, they just (mess) it up,” Pennington said. “Art can be a lot more pedestrian and less pretentious here.”

The exhibition is paired with a summer project at the Soap Factory that will feature a re-creation of the winter works in a warmer climate.

Pennington and Will Nordstrom created a glowing blue sculpture using approximately 1,500 frozen water balloons that Pennington plans to transfer into a 2,000-water-balloon fight in July.

“I want to get like a hundred people there for a huge water balloon fight behind the Soap Factory,” he said.

For now though, Pennington’s “Ice Balloons” beckons, an eerie blue beacon from across the lake in the dead of a dull winter’s night.