Canadian Artist Comments on Society with Giant Ice Letters

The environmental artist Nicole Dextras could only be Canadian, with her love of ice and snow. She creates 8-foot high ice texts which are a meditation on the landscape.

Consisting of one or two words, the three-dimensional text is a comment on the place where it is sited, and frames the way the viewer sees it. Erected in both cities (Toronto) and country (Yukon, Lake Ontario) the icy letters melt over the days and some end up looking like remnants of another life.

The icy landscape is a perfect medium for her work. As she says:

"Ice Typography absorbs light, melts and eventually leaves no trace; these words have more in common with dreams and oral stories than linear language. Words cast in ice interrupt our literal narratives, allowing a more integrated reading of the land we inhabit, as opposed to the past and current commodification of land as limitless resource."

She uses moulds to create the letters, pouring water (sometimes colored for a more dramatic effect) into them, letting them freeze then removing the moulds.

This ice text was created as part of a project in 2007 on the Toronto islands. Other words on view were Desire, Reason and Flux.

The artist comments: "These frozen words relate to the multiple perspectives of language, how one word can conjure up a plethora of definitions depending on the viewpoint of the reader."

Sometimes the words relate directly to the landscape such as “Silence” where the bucolic idealism of nature is transformed by the sound of the crashing waves behind it.

Ethic of Sufficiency is a reflection on the park where the text is located. Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto has a very active community that grows, sells and cooks food for the neighborhood.

These words were made out of ice and set out in the landscape and left to melt. The high winds off Lake Ontario sometimes blew individual letters over before they had time to melt.

This outdoor installation on the Yukon River from 2009 consisted of the 8-foot high word Legacy. It refers to the area's town which was founded over a hundred years ago during the Gold Rush. The next day the only letters left standing were the L and the Y. The artist says, "In the end the ice blocks resembled the ruins of some forgotten ancient city."

Last February, her newest work was seen at the winter festival Winterlude, in Ottawa. Called Pharos, it consisted of six blocks of ice with clothing frozen in them. It was lit from the inside and acted as a giant lantern at night. It was meant to represent a lighthouse that reassures and guides travelers in the night.

Adam Gopnik's wonderful new book Winter: Five Windows on the Season is a verbal meditation on winter.

He ends with a warning about the impact of climate change on this cold season: " of the fundamental human rights for all people who live in northern climates is the right to be cold, exactly because their culture cannot go on in its absence. As we warm the world, entire peoples are being deprived of their weather, a right as fundamental as a seafaring nation’s right to access the ocean, or a Venetian’s right to be wet."

Canadian Artist Comments on Society with Giant Ice Letters
Nicole Dextras is sending an icy message to us all with her text ice sculptures.

Related Content on