OOSI Sculpture

Snow Fence

1981 / Gene Kangas / Cleveland

SnowFence2017a.jpg

Snow Fence was the first sculpture acquired by the Putnam Collection in 1981. The piece was inspired by the wooden slat fences called well… “snow fences”, which are temporary partitions used to prevent snow drifts from building up on paths and in front of access points. You’ll see them on ski slopes, trails, and city streets in the winters.

I had the tremendous opportunity to speak with Mr. Kangas about his work (which is abundant throughout Ohio). I asked him why he chose snow fences as a starting point, and he explained that he liked how snow fences only stopped one specific thing, and they don’t even stop all of it. Just enough so that drifts don’t build up. But snow fences are easily passable by animals and humans; in a similar way he wanted Snow Fence to invite passing students to walk underneath the sculpture, while snowflakes, like the white birds, rest on the outside of the piece. Kangas' work often incorporates I-Beams and hard-edged steel elements that interact with twisting, curving rails. He said that usually, the rails tend to symbolize nature while the I-beams represent manmade structure. Their relationship in Snow Fence makes an interesting statement, as it seems to suggest a mutual dependence: without the rail, the slats would collapse, and without the slats the rail would keel over into the dirt.

Kangas also noted that in Snow Fence, as in all his sculptures, the figures were modeled after real people in his life. The woman with the umbrella is his Mother-in-law, and the dog is his and his wife Linda's first German shepherd. He chose these figures because when he and his wife got their German Shepherd, it was his mother-in-law’s first encounter with a big dog. Her whole life she’d always had small dogs, but now there was this massive change in her lifestyle that came so late in her life. Kangas was fascinated seeing her adapt to be able to interact with this new family dog. The silhouette holds an umbrella, representing protection from the elements, while the dog represents protection from other threats. I asked Kangas about his affinity for silhouettes, which appear in pieces such as “Terminal” at the Justice Center, or “Door” at the CSU Law School. He said that, first of all, his undergrad was in printmaking, so he’s always been more comfortable with 2D models and forms. On top of that, however, he explained how silhouettes create an interesting conversation with the space around them in a 3D setting because there are points where they disappear, where their form looks totally different, or where they are obscured by even the narrowest objects. By utilizing human forms that seem to phase in and out of existence in relation to the viewer, it’s as if the sculpture actively responds to the movements and spatial choices of the viewer.

Kangas, who draws a lot of influence from American Folk Art, started out creating flat duck decoys for fairs around his Eastern Ohio hometown. He went on to study printmaking at Bowling Greene State University, where he later pursued an MFA in Sculpture. He became a professor of art at CSU until he decided to open his own museum for Finnish heritage in Fairport, OH. He has since then left the FHM to open his own gallery called “Creekside”, which he runs with his wife, and where he has come full circle to making duck decoys again; only now, they’re 3 dimensional. Kangas still makes art, but has spent the past few years primarily writing about art.

Location: Next to the Thwing Center, the student union., Euclid Avenue

County

: Cuyahoga

Citation

: Gene Kangas, “Snow Fence,” Ohio Outdoor Sculpture Inventory, accessed October 16, 2017, http://oosi.sculpturecenter.org/items/show/340.

Dublin Core

Title

Snow Fence

Description

Snow Fence was the first sculpture acquired by the Putnam Collection in 1981. The piece was inspired by the wooden slat fences called well… “snow fences”, which are temporary partitions used to prevent snow drifts from building up on paths and in front of access points. You’ll see them on ski slopes, trails, and city streets in the winters.

I had the tremendous opportunity to speak with Mr. Kangas about his work (which is abundant throughout Ohio). I asked him why he chose snow fences as a starting point, and he explained that he liked how snow fences only stopped one specific thing, and they don’t even stop all of it. Just enough so that drifts don’t build up. But snow fences are easily passable by animals and humans; in a similar way he wanted Snow Fence to invite passing students to walk underneath the sculpture, while snowflakes, like the white birds, rest on the outside of the piece. Kangas' work often incorporates I-Beams and hard-edged steel elements that interact with twisting, curving rails. He said that usually, the rails tend to symbolize nature while the I-beams represent manmade structure. Their relationship in Snow Fence makes an interesting statement, as it seems to suggest a mutual dependence: without the rail, the slats would collapse, and without the slats the rail would keel over into the dirt.

Kangas also noted that in Snow Fence, as in all his sculptures, the figures were modeled after real people in his life. The woman with the umbrella is his Mother-in-law, and the dog is his and his wife Linda's first German shepherd. He chose these figures because when he and his wife got their German Shepherd, it was his mother-in-law’s first encounter with a big dog. Her whole life she’d always had small dogs, but now there was this massive change in her lifestyle that came so late in her life. Kangas was fascinated seeing her adapt to be able to interact with this new family dog. The silhouette holds an umbrella, representing protection from the elements, while the dog represents protection from other threats. I asked Kangas about his affinity for silhouettes, which appear in pieces such as “Terminal” at the Justice Center, or “Door” at the CSU Law School. He said that, first of all, his undergrad was in printmaking, so he’s always been more comfortable with 2D models and forms. On top of that, however, he explained how silhouettes create an interesting conversation with the space around them in a 3D setting because there are points where they disappear, where their form looks totally different, or where they are obscured by even the narrowest objects. By utilizing human forms that seem to phase in and out of existence in relation to the viewer, it’s as if the sculpture actively responds to the movements and spatial choices of the viewer.

Kangas, who draws a lot of influence from American Folk Art, started out creating flat duck decoys for fairs around his Eastern Ohio hometown. He went on to study printmaking at Bowling Greene State University, where he later pursued an MFA in Sculpture. He became a professor of art at CSU until he decided to open his own museum for Finnish heritage in Fairport, OH. He has since then left the FHM to open his own gallery called “Creekside”, which he runs with his wife, and where he has come full circle to making duck decoys again; only now, they’re 3 dimensional. Kangas still makes art, but has spent the past few years primarily writing about art.

Creator

Date

1981

Sculpture Item Type Metadata

Location City

Location County

Location Site

Next to the Thwing Center, the student union.

Location Street

Euclid Avenue

Creation Date

01/01/1981