Mary Kocol ~ Artist Statement
Ice Gardens : The Poetics of Nature

Drawing upon themes of the garden, landscape, and the seasons, I create botanical ice tablets. The blossoms are collected from gardens of friends, family, and my own, frozen into ice and photographed in sunlight to become fanciful and ethereal constructions. Blooms and ice are temporary; the photograph becomes the permanent art object – the record that they once briefly existed.

From photography’s earliest days, the garden has been an important source of imagery. Two nineteenth-century British pioneers of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot and Julia Margaret Cameron, incorporated plants from their gardens into early photographic experiments. They gathered plants and recorded their shadows into the first salt prints and wet plate collodions. Both were avid gardeners and Fox Talbot was also a botanist with a glass house for exotic plants.

Seeds of this project started in 2000, when I began making ice candles, with plants embedded inside, as outdoor sculptures of ice and light. Then I moved onto flat plates of ice, freezing paper letters inside to create Alphabet Ice Book, 2005, followed by a series of haiku poems embedded in ice in 2010, thinking of the frozen water as a page or tablet. When ordinary studio lighting failed to capture the sparkle and details of the ice, I chose sunlight to light the garden tablets.

While the water turns into ice, the plants inside drift and float before freezing into place. I don’t know what the final result will look like until the sculpture is popped out of the form and held up to sunlight. Then the unexpected details are revealed, often accompanied by the scent of the flowers, roses especially, permeating through the ice block.

Sunlight brings radiance to the photograph, lighting up the ice and blooms like shimmering jewels. The suspended blooms are evocative of the whimsical floral details in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, where flowers fall against sky and sea; Van Gogh’s almond tree blossoming against horizon-less blue; vintage seed packet designs; and the morning glories and cherry blossoms in Japanese print design. I experience real delight in making this work, while being reminded of what it reflects: that which is ethereal, exquisite, spiritual, and ephemeral.



marykocol (at)

Fine Art Photography Gallery