You know the old saying about how to behave when visiting parks and natural environments? "Take only pictures, leave only footprints." As it turns out, you can do a lot within those constraints. Take artist Sonja Hinrichsen's Snow Drawings series. These beautiful landscape interventions are created by the artist and sometimes a team of volunteers who strap on snowshoes and walk in careful continuous spiralling lines across pristine snow.
Here’s a video by UAV filmographer Cedar Beauregard, filmed during the creation of the piece:
"Most of my artwork addresses the environment in some way," says Hinrichsen. What’s interesting here is how that approach plays out in the creation process. By working in the environment, Hinrichsen subjects herself to the environment. Using a substance as ephemeral as snow poses several challenges. For one thing, the work is very temporary—winds and snowfall can erase it within hours or days. "This requires instant photo documentation," says Hinrichsen. For another, there is the problem of getting pristine snow to work with in the first place.
Originally, this project was going to occur on land owned by the Nature Conservancy. "Unfortunately this winter has been exceptionally dry and there was not anywhere enough snow to create snow drawings on the Nature Conservancy land," says Hinrichsen. They had to move the project to the one place there was snow, Rabbit Ears Pass.
The actual stamping was done by Hinrichsen alongside a team volunteers, recruited from the community. A fair bit of improvisation on the part of participants was involved. Hinrichsen set the basic parameters: spirals that are created from the inside out and lead from one to the next. "I wanted to assure that the resulting work would become one cohesive piece rather than a collection of small individual drawing attempts."
Hinrichsen says that the hardest part of creation was the logistics of the project. She came to rely on representatives from Steamboat Springs Arts Council, the Nature Conservancy of Hayden, and the Steamboat Springs public library to coordinate finding a new location, and the movements of the volunteers.
Two weeks later, Hinrichsen returned with an even larger group from the community. You can see the result here:
Hinrichsen largely works with large scale video installations, using the medium to explore the places and how humans have used and thought about those places throughout history. Interventions like the Snow Drawings are something she’s begun to explore only in the past few years, but she says she enjoys creating these ephemeral works.
"I’m generally not interested in creating lasting art pieces, as I believe that our world is over-saturated with man-made products," she says, "I like to unfold my work into large experiences, however I prefer work that lives on in its documentation only, and—hopefully—in the memories of my audiences."
[Hat tip: This is Colossal.]