Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Celestial Elephant

Celestial Elephant, 8' tall, snow sculpture, 2010 by Donna Dodson & Andy Moerlein, Black Mtn Ski Resort, Jackson, NH. [Invitational-Snow-Sculpting-Event]

This was my first event making a snow sculpture. I worked with my friend and fellow sculptor, Andy Moerlein on this piece. We heard about the event from Anne Alexander, a Maine sculptor and we consulted with her partner from last year, Sandy Moore who has inspired many people to try their hand at making snow sculptures. The event takes place from noon on Friday-noon on Sunday. Each team starts out with an 8ft cylinder of snow that was packed into a round form on site that measured 4 ft diameter. No colorants, power tools or armatures are allowed in the sculpture but the finished piece can be of any height and can spread out to 12 ft diameter. There were 12 teams- some novices like us and some experienced snow, ice and sand sculptors as well.

The snow this year was made on site at Black Mtn ski resort since there was not enough natural snow to hold the event on the common in the town of Jackson. The snow was soft to carve. We used hatchets, snow saws, and finished our piece with rough grit sandpaper belts. We worked on ladders as well as on our hands and knees. Keeping warm in the 0 degree weather was one of the biggest challenges but we had perfect sunny weather all weekend long. We experimented with water, slush and ice details as well. Snow does not hold fine details well but the surface is very dynamic and working at a monumental scale was very exciting. There are snow sculpture contests all over New England, North America and the world. We might try another event or try our hand at ice or sand sculpture in the future.

We decided to create a white elephant out of the snow, so we did some research...

A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.

To possess a white elephant was regarded as a sign of justice and power, peace and prosperity. The tradition derives from tales which associate a white elephant with the birth of Buddha, as his mother was reputed to have dreamed of a white elephant presenting her with a lotus flower, a symbol of wisdom and purity, on the eve of giving birth.

Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a gift of a white elephant was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal was sacred, and a curse because the animal had to be retained and could not be put to much practical use.

In the Pali scriptures it is duly set forth that the form under which Buddha will descend to the earth for the last time will be that of a beautiful young white elephant, open-jawed, with a head the color of cochineal, with tusks shining like silver, sparkling with gems, covered with a splendid netting of gold, perfect in organs and limbs, and majestic in appearance.