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Vail’s enormous ears are listening

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyIce sculptor Scott Rella uses a blowtorch to finish off his Triumph Winterfest exhibit called "are you listening..." Wednesday on the Gore Creek Promenade in Vail Village. The completed exhibit will be unveiled Friday at 5 p.m. during a public lighting ceremony.
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VAIL, Colorado –First it was giant, glistening blades of grass, gracefully curving downward in Vail, Colorado. Next came larger-than-life hollow seashells. Now its 8-foot-tall ears. Yep, you heard me (no pun intended, promise).

The latest Triumph Winterfest ice sculpture exhibit, featuring five enormous ears, is now on display on the Gore Creek Promenade in Vail. A lighting ceremony is set for tonight from 5 to 5:30 p.m.

The exhibit, titled “are you listening …” is a collaboration between local ice sculptor Scott Rella and Denver-based artist Lawrence Argent, who is best known for his Big Blue Bear exhibit in Denver. The exhibit, the third such collaboration by the artists, will be on display until it melts.

Last year passers-by were putting their ears up to the shells, which were part of the “Conduit” exhibit, Rella said.

“It was just kind of funny. Being sarcastic, I said ‘People will listen to anything these days,” Rella said.

That was the beginning of the idea. Then, when Argent and Rella were talking over the phone about what the exhibit would focus on this year, the calls kept getting disconnected.

“One minute we could hear each other clearly, then the line dropped. This happened over and over again during one hour-long conversation,” Argent wrote in the proposal for the project.

“What surfaced was a dialogue that opened pathways though the idea of listening. What do we listen to? What or who is creating the sounds we listen to? When we do, how is this filtered through our systems of consciousness and knowledge?” Argent asks in the proposal.

Talking about the concept of listening and all it entails is one thing – actually sculpting ears is quite another, Rella said. But the men decided to stick with the concept and this week, using chainsaws and chisels, Rella turned 85 300-pound ice blocks into five larger-than-life ears.

“A couple lefts, a couple rights, and all different sizes,” Rella said.

The ears range from nearly 8 feet tall to 4-and-a-half feet tall.

Molly Eppard, the art in public places coordinator for the town of Vail, visited the exhibit numerous times this week as it came together.

“I think its extremely appropriate for where we are as far as modern technology and the advancements and sometimes frustrations with modern technology,” Eppard said. “It’s a clever concept and given the location, its extremely appropriate. You can hear the ski boots in the background and the rushing Gore Creek.”

Nathan Cox of Pink Monkey Solutions, a local event design and production company, lit the sculptures with recycled LED lights that have been used in the exhibit each year.

The lights will be “constantly bubbling, popping through different colors all night long,” Cox said.

This is Rella’s 29th year producing large sculptures and he hopes that in the future all of his ice sculptures provoke thought.

“I want to go more towards getting people to ask, ‘Why did they do that?'” Rella said. “I want to seduce them a little bit and make them wonder. That’s what sculpture and art is really about – not just doing something that’s obvious.”

Whether or not Rella will have a chance to further that goal under the auspices of Triumph Winterfest is yet to be determined. Originally Triumph Development donated $100,000 to Art in Public Places as part of The Willows in Vail redevelopment. That donation originally launched Triumph Winterfest, though other donors have contributed money each year.

The exhibit – which was named one of America’s best public art projects by the Americans for the Arts – costs around $35,000 a year on average.

“We want it to continue 100 percent, but we’re going to do some fundraising to gather additional support,” Eppard said. “I don’t think it’ll be the last year, because its certainly been a popular thing.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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