The Plight of Icarus

The Plight of Icarus


The story of Daedalus and Icarus dates back to Greek mythology and is characterized here by the Roman Poet Ovid in his epic work Metamorphosis. The story is popular one, lasting through the years as an inspiration and a warning to storytellers, artists and dreamers everywhere.

In the story, Daedalus and his son Icarus are imprisoned in the maze of the minotaur and plan their escape by building wings with which they can fly away. Daedalus fashions the wings of feathers and string and wax and harnesses both himself and his son with the flying contraption. Daedalus warns Icarus of the dangers of flying to low and too high, but once they finally begin to soar, Icarus does not heed the warning: He flies too high, too close to the sun, causing the wax in his wings to melt. He is sent crashing to the sea.

We have chosen to depict Icarus in the moments before he takes his flight. We are focusing not on his fate, but on the beauty and the wonderment leading to that first step. The Plight of Icarus is about a dreamer on the verge of a dream; a prisoner on the verge of his freedom; about the fear and exhilaration on the edge of the unknown.

This sculpture had much less planning in terms of figure placement and structure. Design for this one was concerned with making wings and a chain. The structure was quite stable as you can see. You'll also noticed we didn't stray much from the original concept except to have Icarus looking toward the stars.

A view of the sculpture from behind the site

This was a sculpture concerned more with finer details. Subtlety of gesture, if you can do that with something which melts before your very eyes. I think we managed to get the noble dignity I wanted and yet still kept some of the loneliness and fear of the subject. It was a kind of sculpture you just had to feel your way through to make sure it felt right. We did a lot of stopping and looking at each other posing to ensure everything fit right. Nothing like trying to see what musculature looks like when you're wearing a parka.

The triumph of the sculpture was the wings. That's where the majesty and dignity came from. Constructed from igloo-like blocks of snow coated in layers of water and ice, these were what made the sculpture for me (these along with the subtle bend of the chest gave the work a sense of movement which we'd lacked in the past). We still have a lot to learn in this area, but for the sheer beauty of sculpted snow, I would be hard pressed to find a better example than these delicately carved wings.

The Plight of Icarus was created in January/February, 1997 on Dow's Lake in Ottawa. The sculpture took second place in the General Public category.





Click to view the "Plight of Icarus" photo gallery

Daily Updates

Note: These daily records were not taken at the time the sculpture was being created. Notes for calendars, receipts and record books have been examined to re-create the events leading up to and involving the creation of this sculpture.

arrow 97/01/31 - 97/02/07 - Snow sculpture construction.

No other daily records are available at this time.

Another view of the wings