Community ice art project plans to recreate painting scene
Artist Eric Aho will host a community-wide ice-cutting project on Keewaydin Lake on Saturday, February 5, to recreate the winter scene from Marsden Hartley’s 1908-09 painting “The Ice-Hole, Maine ” (New Orleans Art Museum, LA). This audience-led effort will commemorate a pivotal work by an important American artist and invite local residents to participate in and celebrate two of Maine’s many historic winter pastimes: ice cutting and landscape painting. Both emphasize the simple enjoyment of the outdoors.
Maine’s brutal winter provided the natural resources and framework needed to create industries and hobbies, from ice harvesting to landscape painting. In 1908, the American painter Marsden Hartley moved into a small house in North Stoneham. Inspired by the wintry terrain of his home country, Hartley produced his first mature works which later launched his career as an artist, including one of his first landscapes, “The Ice-Hole, Maine”.
In “The Ice Hole, Maine”, Hartley paints a scene depicting local ice harvesting, a common endeavor in 19th-century New England that involved collecting surface ice from lakes to be exported for use in ice houses. servants. Yet instead of showing a traditional sculpted grid pattern, Hartley paints an elongated “H” in the pond. While the mountains in the background form a lowercase m, affixing Hartley’s monogram to the scene. These details show Hartley’s affection for the environment that inspired the artist to align himself with the rugged and restless character of the state, eventually referring to himself as “the Painter of Maine.”
To celebrate rural Maine’s unique cultural history, an enthusiastic team of winter-loving community volunteers will cut a fifteen-foot-wide by thirty-foot-long “H” in the ice near the north shore of Keewaydin Lake in roughly the same location as Harvest Ice illustrated in Marsden Hartley’s 1908 painting. The team of volunteers will use hand tools typical of late 19th and early 20th century ice harvesting, including pickaxes, saws, chisels and pliers. The resulting shape will look like a giant elongated letter “H” much like the shape Marsden Hartley observed and included in his painting. Drones and terrestrial video and photography will be used to document the project from start to finish.
The project hopes to highlight the significant commercial and recreational opportunities created by the Maine winter, highlight changing winter conditions and their effects on New England’s natural resources, and recognize the important role of rural communities in Maine in the development of American art.
Aho is an American painter known for his immersive paintings of the natural world. With color and form that connect the way we experience nature in its totality, Aho’s canvases at all scales occupy a zone of perception between sober realism and ecstatic abstraction. He has been called “one of the leading landscape and environmental painters of his generation”. His works have been exhibited and collected widely in the United States and abroad. Recent solo exhibitions have been held in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C. Aho’s paintings have been
broadcast internationally in Ireland, South Africa, Cuba, Norway, Finland and Japan. He lives and works in Saxtons River, Vermont, and since childhood has spent several weeks each year in Maine.
A gray student is on the list of the president of the University of Vermont