OOSI Sculpture

Snow Fence

1981 / Gene Kangas / Cleveland

SnowFence2017a.jpg

Snow Fence was the first sculpture acquired by the Putnam Collection for Case Western in 1981. It was commissioned by Peter Putnam via the Mildred Andrews Fund. The colorful painted environmental metal sculpture was inspired by wooden slat fences called “snow fences,” which are temporary partitions used to prevent snow drifts from buildings. They appear on winter ski slopes, trails, near driveways and city streets.

Gene Kangas explained that he liked how snow fences only stopped a specific thing, but they don’t stop all of it. “Just enough so that drifts don’t build up.” Snow fences are passable by animals and humans; in a similar way, Gene wanted Snow Fence to invite passing college students to walk underneath the sculpture. The white birds, like snowflakes, rest on top of the piece. Kangas' work often incorporates structural I-Beams and hard-edged steel elements that interact with twisting, curving green pipes. He said that the pipes symbolize nature while industrial members represent manmade structures. Their relationship in Snow Fence makes an intriguing statement, as it suggests an interdependence: without the vines, leaning slats would collapse, and without the intersecting slats, the vines would fall to the earth.

Kangas also noted that in Snow Fence, as in all his sculptures, figures were modeled after real people. The woman with the umbrella was his mother-in-law Dolores Muse, and the dog was his and his wife Linda's first German shepherd Arno. He chose the two figures because when he and his wife got their German Shepherd, it was his mother-in-law’s first encounter with a big dog. In most of her life she’d always had small dogs, but now there was this massive new experience to consider. Kangas was fascinated seeing her adapt and interact with their new family dog.

Dolores’ silhouette holds an umbrella, for protection from the elements, while Arno represents protection from other threats. They became friends. Gene Kangas discussed his affinity for silhouettes, which appear in sculptures such as “Terminal” at the Frank Lausche State Office Building or “Door” at CSU.

Since his undergrad degree was in printmaking, he’s comfortable experimenting with 2D models and forms. He explained how flat silhouettes create an interesting visual conversation within 3D spaces around them because there are places where they disappear, where their form looks totally different, or where they are obscured by narrow elements. By utilizing human forms that seem to phase in and out of existence in relation to humans, sculptures actively respond to movements and spatial choices of viewers.

Gene Kangas has been interested in and been influenced by American Folk Art since 1967. He studied printmaking at Miami University from 1962-1966, and then later pursued a Sculpture MFA at Bowling Green State University from 1966-1968. He was a professor of art at the University of North Carolina and locally at CSU. He was also the first Director of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport, Ohio. Case Western is to be congratulated on the excellent effort they have made on maintaining and preserving Snow Fence in such a welcoming public place.

Description provided by the artist, Gene Kangas

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

County

: Cuyahoga

Citation

: Gene Kangas, “Snow Fence,” Ohio Outdoor Sculpture Inventory, accessed September 22, 2018, http://oosi.sculpturecenter.org/items/show/340.

Dublin Core

Title

Snow Fence

Description

Snow Fence was the first sculpture acquired by the Putnam Collection for Case Western in 1981. It was commissioned by Peter Putnam via the Mildred Andrews Fund. The colorful painted environmental metal sculpture was inspired by wooden slat fences called “snow fences,” which are temporary partitions used to prevent snow drifts from buildings. They appear on winter ski slopes, trails, near driveways and city streets.

Gene Kangas explained that he liked how snow fences only stopped a specific thing, but they don’t stop all of it. “Just enough so that drifts don’t build up.” Snow fences are passable by animals and humans; in a similar way, Gene wanted Snow Fence to invite passing college students to walk underneath the sculpture. The white birds, like snowflakes, rest on top of the piece. Kangas' work often incorporates structural I-Beams and hard-edged steel elements that interact with twisting, curving green pipes. He said that the pipes symbolize nature while industrial members represent manmade structures. Their relationship in Snow Fence makes an intriguing statement, as it suggests an interdependence: without the vines, leaning slats would collapse, and without the intersecting slats, the vines would fall to the earth.

Kangas also noted that in Snow Fence, as in all his sculptures, figures were modeled after real people. The woman with the umbrella was his mother-in-law Dolores Muse, and the dog was his and his wife Linda's first German shepherd Arno. He chose the two figures because when he and his wife got their German Shepherd, it was his mother-in-law’s first encounter with a big dog. In most of her life she’d always had small dogs, but now there was this massive new experience to consider. Kangas was fascinated seeing her adapt and interact with their new family dog.

Dolores’ silhouette holds an umbrella, for protection from the elements, while Arno represents protection from other threats. They became friends. Gene Kangas discussed his affinity for silhouettes, which appear in sculptures such as “Terminal” at the Frank Lausche State Office Building or “Door” at CSU.

Since his undergrad degree was in printmaking, he’s comfortable experimenting with 2D models and forms. He explained how flat silhouettes create an interesting visual conversation within 3D spaces around them because there are places where they disappear, where their form looks totally different, or where they are obscured by narrow elements. By utilizing human forms that seem to phase in and out of existence in relation to humans, sculptures actively respond to movements and spatial choices of viewers.

Gene Kangas has been interested in and been influenced by American Folk Art since 1967. He studied printmaking at Miami University from 1962-1966, and then later pursued a Sculpture MFA at Bowling Green State University from 1966-1968. He was a professor of art at the University of North Carolina and locally at CSU. He was also the first Director of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport, Ohio. Case Western is to be congratulated on the excellent effort they have made on maintaining and preserving Snow Fence in such a welcoming public place.

Description provided by the artist, Gene Kangas

Creator

Date

1981

Source

Gene Kangas

Format

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