ICE BOOKS: receding/reseeding
"Her receding/reseeding ice sculptures and documentary film address solutions to the erosion and pollution of watersheds."
- Robin Tierney, author
River water is frozen, carved into the form of a book, embedded with an "ecological language" or "riparian text" consisting of local native seeds, and placed back into the stream. The seeds are released as the ice melts in the current. Those who contribute to or participate in the Ice Book launches are determined by the location. Along the Nisqually River in Washington, for example, Nisqually Tribal Members, salmon restoration specialists, musicians, fifth graders attending WaHeLut Indian School, students and professors from Evergreen State College, Forest Rangers, all took part. Participants in New Mexico on the Rio Grande have included artists, farmers, acequia majordomos, college students, professors, hydrologists, Pueblo members, and hundreds of interested watershed citizens.
receding/reseeding emphasizes the necessity of communal effort and scientific knowledge to deal with the complex issues of climate disruption and watershed restoration by releasing seed-laden ephemeral ice sculptures into rivers. I work with stream ecologists, biologists, and botanists to ascertain the best seeds for each specific riparian zone. When the plants regenerate and grow along the bank, they help sequester carbon, hold the banks in place, and provide shelter for riverside creatures. The title of this work was first conceived for "Weather Report," a groundbreaking exhibition about climate change curated by art critic/author Lucy Lippard for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, Colorado. I carved a 250-pound book from clear ice and embedded it with a seed text of Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum), Columbine flowers (Aquilegia coerulea), and Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens). Four people carried the heavy book out into the current of Boulder Creek. As it rested between two large rocks, viewers could see the water flowing under the ice. One of the photographs of this piece shows three students standing in the river as they "read" the seed text on the book. Arapaho Glacier, which provides 60% of Boulder's drinking water, is receding rapidly due to climate disruption. One of the ways to help sequester more carbon and hopefully reduce some of the effects of climate change is through plants: Hence, receding/reseeding.
When there are numerous participants, as there were when Ice Books were released into the Nisqually River, whose source is the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier, water is gathered from the stream, added to a canteen, and handed to others who collect more creek water, illuminating the point that we all "live downstream" and are connected. This gathered river water is then frozen, carved into the form of both open and closed books, and placed back into the stream. The closed books have seed patterns on the covers, while the open books have rows of seeds forming "sentences".
In June 2009, after showing the receding/reseeding video documentary at the Albuquerque Museum, about sixty participants boarded a bus and arrived at the Rio Grande to witness and help launch eleven Ice Books. If conditions are right (and ripe), a book will be left to melt into the banks of a river. This was the case in June, when Tome II, a 300-pound Ice Book with paragraphs of local cottonwood seeds (Populus fremontii), was placed next to the Rio and allowed to melt. It was the season during which the cottonwood seeds would normally begin to take root and germinate. However, along much of the Rio Grande, since the river has been straightened and not allowed its annual overflow into the floodplain, cottonwood seeds fall onto dry land under the canopy and are unable to sprout. The melting Ice Book recreated, in microcosm, the perfect conditions for cottonwood seeds to grow.
Gallery and museum installations of the Ice Books include 30" x 24" photographs of the books printed on canvas, with smaller images of the sculptures being launched into rivers. Amid the photographs is a monitor showing the video, receding/reseeding. At eye level, on a metal grate above a trough, an Ice Book is placed and allowed to melt during the opening. After a week or so the seeds released into the trough during the melt, sprout in the water provided by the ice, creating a micro-ecosystem in the gallery. The sprouts are then taken to the river to float downstream, completing a cycle.
For additional information on the ice books, see receding/reseeding on the Videos page.
Enlarged photographs printed on canvas of each ice book are available for purchase. Please Contact
Click each image to enlarge
Boulder Creek; Colorado. 250-pounds of ice. 28" x 20" x 8"
Mountain Maple, Columbine flower, Blue Spruce. 2007
River Schelde; Antwerp, Belgium. 11" x 7 ½" x 1"
Photographed on top of ancient tidal gauge. 2008
Canal St. Martin, 10eme Arrondisement; Paris, France. 9" x 7" x 1"
Irrigation ditch; Arles, France. 12" x 7" x 1"
French Lavender. 2008
BOOK XVII and BOOK XVIII
Muga River, Boadella, Spain. 6" x 4" x 1" each
Spanish Broom. Wild fennel. 2008
Nisqually River; Washington State. 15" x 8 ½" x 1 ½"
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). 2008 BOOK XXX
Rio Grande; New Mexico. 15" x 10" x 4"
Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa), Indian Ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides) 2009
TOME II, dusk
Rio Grande; New Mexico. 300 pounds of ice. 30" x 24" x 9"
Rio Grande Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) 2009
Rio Grande; New Mexico. 15" x 20" x 3"
Mountain Mahogany, (Cercocarpus montanus). 2009
SEVEN PAGES, First set
Rio Grande; New Mexico. 12" x 8" x 1" each
Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) seeds and seed pods, , plus riparian grasses including Alkali Sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovina), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), Little Bluestem (Andropogon scovarius), Streambank Wheatgrass (Agropyron riparium), Galleta (Hilaria jamesii). 2009
SEVEN PAGES, Second set. Plus Lemonade Berry (Rhus trilobata)
Rio Grande; New Mexico. 16" x 21" x 3 ½"
Indian Ricegrass, (Oryzopsis hymenoides). Tibetan word for river. 2009
Photo by Nicole Dextras
Installation with photos, video, seed packets, trough with remains of ice book
BOOK XXXIV, 350
Rio Grande; New Mexico.
Lemonade Berry (Rhus trilobata). 2009