I recently assisted artist Carson Fox in installing this exhibition at Redux; as a non-traditional sculptural installation, it was a lot of fun to put up! My main task was hammering the delicate resin flowers into the wall at irregularly spaced intervals, which gave me the opportunity to view the intricate molding of the resin firsthand. I also aided in tying the icicles to the clear wire on which they are suspended, allowing me to appreciate the smooth clearness of each one- they look like they should be cold, should be melting, but they are as indestructible as plastic. Having been around the work for so long, I felt I had enough of a deeper understanding of the work to write a decent review…
The viewer enters a frosty pale blue room with intricate cast resin piles of snowflakes on the floor surrounded by fake snow, The walls hold more cast resin snowflakes, layered like a snowdrift, pointing you towards a dark black room where rows of icicles hang from the ceiling and hundreds upon hundreds of translucent resin flowers adorn the walls. It is a joyous sight, an abstract memory of winters long past. But these ornaments hold symbolic purpose, as Carson Fox crafts her memories in the undying medium of resin to hold on to her loved ones in defiance of their– and her own– mortality.
The frosty blue entrance room has iridescent walls that glimmer and reflect the sculptures resting on them. Against the front wall is the 6.5ft-wide “Snow Cloud #6,” facing “Snow Cloud #5,” two of the artist’s later attempts at these labor-intensive sculptures. Fox melds individually molded large, glassy, transparent silvery-white snowflakes together with liquid resin to create varying representations of melting ice in wintery environments. On ice-blue pedestals scattered with sparkly fake snow in the centre of the room are 68″-wide “Snow Drift #1″ and “Snow Drift #2″; the artist increased her use of liquid resin and pigment to lend her snow piles eerily realism in their depiction of melting snow. “Snow Drift #2,” my favourite in this room, had faded grey resin at the bottom, mimicking dirty snow piled on a street corner.
The main gallery is entirely painted a soft glossy black that reflects “Icicle Field,” a 15ft square of icicles hanging in orderly rows from the ceiling above. These cast resin icicles are about two feet long, clear, and pointed; they loom ominously above the viewer, reminding them of the danger that ice can also pose, as any of these beautiful daggers could easily kill you in a real wintery environment. They gently refract the light in all directions through imperfections in the icicles, causing the field of icicles to glow independently of other objects in the room. Beyond the field’s foreboding limits lies “Silver Field,” hundreds of individually molded silvery blue resin flowers form thick clouds illuminating the dark walls. The flowers are reflected against the glossy walls, creating an otherworldly iridescent effect. Every flower is unique, and many kinds of molds were used to put them together; sand dollar, starfish and anemone shapes abound amidst daisy, star and sun motifs, with pigments ranging from frosty blue and purple to metallic silver, entwining general motifs of happy memories amidst the icy cave-wall effect of the installation.
Carson Fox’s resin sculptures are highly symbolic, representing the artist’s tender memories of her mother through a lifetime of gelid winters. She was inspired to create this abstraction of a glacial environment by a dream she experienced after her mother’s death: as she spoke to her mother outside in an icicle-strewn landscape, both her mother and the icicles slowly melted away, and the artist came to an understanding of the ephemeral nature of life. Everything has its time and must fade away eventually, whether we are willing to let them go or not. The oversized snowflakes and eternally looming icicles represent the artist’s way of coping with this understanding by holding on dearly to those things that, without her effort, would pass the soonest– icicles in September, and memories of her mother. Fox uses her art to subvert the inevitability of time and temperature by playing God- she wants icicles that will never melt, flowers that will forever remain freshly bloomed, and memories that will never fade, so she molds them from resin and holds on to them forever.
The knowledge of this intention adds layers of meaning to the work when the viewer considers the melting of ice to be representative of the passing of time eating away at one’s mortality. One begins to see that Fox, in coping with death, makes some concessions to its inevitability; this is clearest in her “Snow Drift” series, where impossibly stacked snowflakes are bound by layers of melted resin, like the chains binding us to our own mortality; the resin represents the snow she could not stop from melting, the deaths in the world that she could not prevent from occurring. “Snow Drift #2″ is my favourite piece in the exhibition for this reason; the perfect snowflakes form a loose peak, seemingly melting under its own weight, the base of pile sullied a greyish brown by the melt, like a caricature of a snow heap in real life; Fox envisions it a little marred by time, and her inability to stop time’s flow, even while she fashions her own perfect interpretation of snow locked in time. In contrast to this, the snowflakes of the “Snow Cloud” series are more loosely bound together, using the unique geometry of the flakes to allow them to protrude with space. These snowflakes are forever intact and forever perfect, a projection of the artist’s desire to compensate for her inability to prevent death in reality.
The arrangement of the sculptures in the space effectively establishes specific dreamlike images dealing with wintery motifs locked in time; the entrance room’s iridescent blue hue surrounds the viewer in icy calmness, while the sculptures surround the viewer from all viewpoints, creating the effect of being immersed in a cartoon winter wonderland of oversized eternal snowflakes. The shiny black of the main gallery effectively brings out the frosty paleness of both the clear icicles, which are even shinier in the darkness, and the flowers. The space is open and airy, removing the sculptures from any hint of an external environment and inviting the viewer to imagine their own in which the sculptures form the landscape. Like several past exhibitions at Redux, this sculptural installation is unique among other exhibitions running concurrently in Charleston; what sets it apart is the intensive process-based nature of the work, and deeply personal symbolism involved.
To step into Carson Fox’s Ice Storm is to immerse oneself in the artist’s personal exploration of time, mortality and memory. It is impossible to be in such an evocative winter environment and not recall happy days spent amidst snow in piles and drifts, and significant events in life that coincided with the winter season. Everything must have its time, but it is a comfort to hold the power to recreate fleeting dreams in everlasting objects. Ice Storm is Carson Fox’s way of using her abilities to overcome death in the only way she can– after all, you cannot take life from that which is inanimate. Through melting drifts of snow and endlessly quivering fields of icicles, winter is made eternal and temperature made immaterial to Fox’s perfect memories.