Feeling Cold, Cold, Cold

Chill out with subzero art install

Santa Fe-based installation artist Cheri Ibes is out to challenge your concept of ice sculpture. Just don't expect any swans or woven baskets à la ritzy hotel.

"[Ice sculpture] tends to be kind of decorative, and I don't do decorative," Ibes says.

Her vision? Transforming Axle Contemporary's mobile gallery into an icy install filled with some 25 different sculptures that she calls "swarms."

In preparation, Ibes played with some ice formations in her freezer, which she later under-lit. "I thought, 'That's gorgeous,'" Ibes recalls. "It's a little bit nerve-wrenching…it's very cold," she says of the trial-and-error process.

Experimenting with the notion of art as "something ethereal," Ibes embellishes the swarms with found elements like plastic tubing and balloons. "They look like cell things," Ibes says, adding that she's looking to juxtapose the ice's jaggedness with a more organic look.

Other formations, Ibes says, feature encased, tilting water bottles that—as the surrounding ice melts—will douse the space with raw material for more sculptures, which, in turn, will refresh the space for the remainder of the exhibit.

"It's the cycle of life, in a way," says Ibes—who in the past has used nontraditional materials such as discarded shoe soles and piano hardware in her artwork. "The biggest idea is that the ice is not stable, and it is constantly transforming itself by melting," she notes, adding that as they succumb to the elements, the pieces themselves will create art.

To complete the feel, Ibes will employ warehouse storage shelves and translucent plastic lining throughout Axle's interior, effectively transforming the step van into a cold-storage unit.  

"The step van is such a powerful art piece in itself," Ibes says. "You look at the artwork inside and go, 'Wow, I really like this truck.' I wanted to somehow incorporate the step van as a central piece: the site for this site-specific install."

Cold Storage: Axle Contemporary (Railyard Plaza, S Guadalupe and Paseo de Peralta, 670-5854). Through Feb. 10

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