Ice And Air: Kites on the Lake will Recall an Art Exhibit Remarkable for Lake George
By Anthony F. Hall
Friday, February 4, 2011
At Lake George’s Winter Carnival this month, dozens of multi-colored kites will be unleashed above the frozen lake.
If the sight of abstract shapes and bright colors displayed against a stark winter landscape reminds some of an event co-ordinated by the Lake George Arts Project more than 20 yrs ago, it is intended to.
“Although a very different kind of event, we wanted to recreate something of the experience of the Ice and Air Show,” says, John Strong, the Arts Project’s director.
Billed as “a temporal sculpture and sound show,” the Ice and Air show, consisting of works by ten artists, was held on the frozen surface of Bolton Bay for three days in February, 1983, drawing 5,000 visitors.
Selected by Tal Streeter, who also participated in the show, the artists came from as far away as the west coast and the U.K and as near as Diamond Point to assemble installations on the ice.
“It was a huge undertaking,” recalls Strong, who had been appointed the Arts Project’s director shortly before the show opened.
“As an arts administrator, it was ‘baptimism by ice,’” he says. If the show was a success, it is because it exhibited the unpredicatiblity and force of nature as much as it did works of art, Strong says.
A geodesic dome by Jon Kessler sank and Kit Yun-Snyder’s “Wire Mesh Arches” was wrecked by the wind and renamed “Ruins.” Those were among the show’s countless, unintended surprises.
“The impact of the wind, freezing rain, the cold, the melting ice on the pieces, all demonstrated the power of Lake George,” says Strong, adding, “That’s what a show of environmental art should do.”
That, however, was a point missed by many. Local critics and some residents dismissed the show at best as a pretentious waste of money (the costs of the show were reported to be anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000) and a hoax at worst.
Says Barbara Law, who at the time was a local correspondent for the Post-Star, “A lot of local people thought it was above their heads, and didn’t attend. Some who did were critical. I appreciated the effort the artists put into their work, and tried to approach it with a positive attitude.”
Strong acknowledges that some criticisms were justified.”The reality is, a lot of pieces didn’t succeed; the artists’ stated intentions weren’t realized.” he says. “They should have been identified as works-in-progress.”
Some installations were, however, a popular success, like George Peters’ “Ice Feathers,”
“It was a simple piece, but simplicity appeals to people,” says Law. “It worked because it was well-integrated with the wind and with the environment as a whole.”
Other aspects of the show were equally memorable, including a concert organized by composer Charlie Morrow using horns designed by Bruno LaVerdiere, as well as whistles and church bells, and a night-time show of lighted flares by Tal Streeter.
John Strong’s most lasting impressions of the show were, he says, are the sense of community the event created.
“The ice fishermen shared their knowledge of the lake with the artists, Frank Leonbruno opened state facilities so the artists could work on their pieces, people cross country skiied from site to site,” he recalls.
That atmosphere appears to have colored many people’s memories of the event.
“I recall it as a warm, cozy experience,” says Rolf Ronning, who at the time was a member of the Lake George Arts Project’s Board of Directors (and was therefore also conscripted to sell hot chocolate during the event). “The artists were congenial and engaged the community. It brought a new dimension to the arts on Lake George, and it would never have happened without the Lake George Arts Project.”
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