Artist David Dossett of Martello Alley in Kingston had a problem: how to showcase art encased in a 300-pound block of ice without encouraging people to come out and congregate, due to the pandemic.
The solution presented itself after he looked at innovative kinds of store displays.
“This year, I ordered two blocks [of ice] from a factory north of London, Ont. and I had a special transparent film from Lux Labs [to project the art]. We put that in the block of ice,” Dossett said.
The special film — typically used in store windows for animated displays — can be used to project an image of whatever artwork Dossett chooses to profile. He brings the 300-pound ice on a truck to a selected location, lights the ice from below (or behind), projects the image, takes pictures through a special 360-degree virtual program called Matterport, and uploads the images to the website.
Matterport is typically used for real estate showings online, and its “3D cameras and virtual tour software platform [digitize] buildings and automatically create 3D tours, 4K print quality photos, schematic floor plans, videos and more,” according to the Matterport website.
“The ice is lit from below, [so it] looks like it’s in glass,” said Dossett. The ice he uses needs to be clear for the images to show well and has to be frozen in a specific way. It is the same kind of ice that ice sculptors use, he explained.
The project, called Froid’Art or Art on Ice, is made possible this year through funding from RTO 9 South Eastern Ontario, a regional tourism organization.
“I really want to underline the fact that this is the first year I’ve gotten funding… I want to thank all the sponsors and the public who supported me,” Dossett said.
Winter bleakness sparked colourful idea
The concept of putting art inside an ice block came to Dossett in the winter of 2014. His wife would go for walks after dinner, and noted that, after Christmas, people turned off their holiday lights and everything was gray and depressing. This led them to imagine an art show that could be viewed as people walked past.
After discussing it with his wife, Dossett thought of a solution to the possibility of art work being vandalized when it’s outdoors: to freeze it. He promptly ordered a block of ice, with instructions to freeze art inside it, and it arrived New Year’s Day, 2015.
Without thinking the process through thoroughly, Dossett admitted he encountered a host of problems: for one, the ice couldn’t be delivered to his residence, as it had to be delivered to a loading dock. Quatrocchi’s Specialty Foods in Kingston agreed to have it delivered there.
He eventually managed to put the ice block in front of his house, figured out a way to light it from below, set it on a pallet, and padded snow around it to hide the pallet.
“We turned the light on, and it was ‘Wow!’ It was like angels [singing]. People would see it as they went by. I ordered 12 more and it became a big thing. It was so cold that year that it lasted till mid-March,” recalled Dossett. Over the coming years’ winters, Froid’Art became something of a Kingston staple, bringing local arts to the streets, and warmth, brightness, and colour to the dreariest months of the year.
And while Froid’Art has been around for a number of years, it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
Organizers were told they could not hold the event unless they posted guards around the ice blocks or put the blocks out but did not tell anyone. “[It was] unacceptable… we couldn’t give credit to artists, we couldn’t tell people where [the ice blocks] were. So, we cancelled it last year.”
Next year, he hopes the event will be in-person. For now, he said, “people can see Froid’Art virtually, any time of day, from anywhere in the world.”
To view Froid’Art, and to find out more about Dossett’s other projects featuring local artists, Martello Alley and Martello on Brock, visit https://www.martelloalley.net/tfuwl8bpda