Verdant Meadows ice sculptures on display in Vail |

Verdant Meadows ice sculptures on display in Vail

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO, Colorado
AE Verdant Meadows PU 1-10-08

VAIL, Colorado ” Seventeen giant blades of grass dot the landscape along Gore Creek in Vail. Each blade, sculpted from a series of 300-pound blocks of ice, is between 10 and 15 feet high.

Let your imagination work a bit and the curved sculptures rising from the ground look a little like enormous elephant tusks, though one curious passersby said the sculptures really do look like giant blades of grass.

“I really like the segments ” the facets of the blades. I think it’s very original,” said Ruth Galbreth, visiting from Albuquerque, N.M.

The exhibit, called Triumph Winterfest Verdant Meadows, is a $40,000 project funded by Triumph Development and organized by the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places council. Denver artist Lawrence Argent and local ice sculptor Scott Rella collaborated on the project.

Though Argent hasn’t seen the sculptures lit yet, he’s looking forward to the finished product, he said.

“It will be a very magical environment down there, and will illuminate that part of the river. (This project) will add something to the visual literacy of Vail,” he said.

Argent is best known for “I See What You Mean,” a 30-foot blue bear sculpture outside the Denver Convention Center. Taking small things and making them big seems to be a theme in Argent’s work, but he said his method isn’t quite so simple.

“I like to question the familiar. In so many ways it’s through that meaning and experience that opens up the sublime,” he said.

The temporal nature of the project and collaborating with Scott Rella, a 20-plus year ice sculptor and owner of four ice sculpting companies, attracted Argent to what he referred to as an “unusual enterprise,” he said.

“The fact that it isn’t permanent, that it changes with the environment. I think that’s part of the cycle of life and I think that’s what these pieces represent ” the cycle of life,” Argent said.

Everything Rella does is temporary, he said.

“That’s the whole zen of it for me, it’s always been like that … I play music, that goes away. You cook a good meal, it’s gone. It’s about creating something that’s for the moment ” I like the movement of it, the whole spirituality of it,” he said.

Collaborating with other artists is Rella’s new direction as an artist, he said. On Jan. 6 he celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the opening of his first ice sculpture business.

“If you look at my work over the past 25 years, I’ve done tons of figures ” Roman gladiators, Thor the god of thunder and lightning ” I’m trying to reinvent myself as an artist, this is a new direction for me. The whole thing is about art in its environment.”

Rella spent much of the past week with a chainsaw in hand, carving the sculptures.

“Very manly,” Rella joked about the process. Rella, along with Paul Wertin and Rob Capone, worked to put the sculptures together last week. Capone and Wertin stacked the 300-pound blocks of ice ” approximately 100 of them, Rella said ” on top of each other while Rella followed them around with a chainsaw, sculpting the ice into organic forms.

Inside the base of each sculpture is an LED light. Beginning with tonight’s lighting ceremony the sculptures will light up around sunset each evening through March, or whenever they melt. Ranging from amber green to turquoise and “straight up green, green,” colors will flow through the sculptures as if they’re in motion, said Michael Baugh of Pink Monkey Solutions. Baugh, along with his partner Nathan Cox, designed the lighting for the sculptures and were testing the lights on Thursday afternoon.

Not only is the project green in color, it’s also green from an environmental perspective.

“It’s green on green,” Baugh said, chuckling.

“Basically they don’t use a lot of energy and you get great colors,” Cox agreed, referring to the LEDs.

The lights were also recycled ” they came from a fountain on Wall Street in Vail.

Fordham has just one request for passersby ” be respectful.

In an effort to keep the sculptures standing, heightened security has been arranged as a precaution, Fordham said.

“There’s a crowd of people in town who think ice sculptures are meant to be vandalized. We’re begging people not to destroy them. Walk amongst the verdant meadows. Have your picture taken with them, but please don’t destroy them,” Fordham said. “They are something Vail can be proud of.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or

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