The last time sculptor Thomas Barlow displayed public art in Vail, it was for a competition, which he won.
It was 1989 and Vail was hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships; Barlow’s team won first place at the ice sculpture contest. The idea involved a fountain within a fountain, at a quintessential Vail spot.
“I did something in the Children’s Fountain,” said Barlow, who lives in Basalt. “I made some horses heads spouting out water. It was fairly big — maybe four or five blocks of ice.”
That might not sound so big if you don’t know what a block of ice weighs. Each block weighs around 300 pounds.
Which puts into perspective the current installation Barlow is working on right now near the Covered Bridge in Vail as part of Triumph Winterfest.
“In total, we used 50 blocks,” Barlow said.
For those of you who don’t like math, that’s an impressive 15,000 pounds of ice.
See 70 ice lanterns
We caught up with Barlow on Thursday as he was headed down to Loveland in a commercial flatbed truck he rented to pick up his second load of ice.
“We forklift the ice onto pallets and then onto the truck,” he said.
Barlow began installing the icy luminaries Friday morning and finishes up today, in time for Sunday’s unveiling of the exhibit, which is titled Logan Luminescence after sponsors Kent and Vicki Logan, who are part-time Vail residents.
The unveiling takes place in conjunction with the Vail Holidaze tree lighting at 5 p.m. on Sunday in Vail Village’s Slifer Square by the Covered Bridge.
The exhibit includes 70 cylindrical ice lanterns in varying dimensions that will transform Slifer Square into an atmospheric ice and light installation. A few chandelier type lanterns will hang from the surrounding trees.
Much of the cutting was done prior to the installation using a computer that was programmed with the dimensions.
“They are perfectly round, perfectly cut,” Barlow said of the sculptures, which all are between 7 and 14-inches wide and “range from 3 feet up to 7 feet tall.”
“It’s going to be impressive,” Barlow said of the very contemporary design. “They’re lit with LED lighting. It’s a new product that’s waterproof. It’s a very narrow strip wth LED’s in it and I can send a sequence through it that does a slight flicker.”
When Barlow presented the idea to the Art in Public Places board, which organizes the event, he showed the lanterns lit with shades of “amber and red — fiery colors.”
“The idea was to create a whole landscape,” he said. “This whole area will flicker with light.”
Wood, sand, snow and ... cake
For the first year, the annual Triumph Winterfest ice sculpture installation will include two separate installations by two separate artists: “One during the holidays in Slifer Square, along with the traditional Triumph Winterfest exhibition on the Gore Creek Promenade, which opens Jan. 17,” said Art in Public Places coordinator Molly Eppard.
Local ice sculptor Paul Wertin was chosen as the artist for the Gore Creek Promenade exhibit by the Art in Public Places board.
Barlow began his sculpting career in the culinary industry at Chicago’s Hilton International Drake Hotel. His innate skills did not go unnoticed. He was quickly promoted and recognized for his creativity in three-dimensional sculpting of fruits, vegetables and ,eventually, elaborate cake designs. Barlow moved to Colorado in 1987 and settled in the Roaring Fork Valley. Launching his own business, he became sought after for his talents as a pastry chef and ice sculptor. He’s been sculpting in a variety of mediums — ice, wood, sand, snow, cake — for more than 25 years, he said, and has received numerous awards and been exhibited throughout the country and overseas. For more about Barlow, visit www.thomas-barlow.com.