By Joanna Bastian
The Methow Valley is renowned for its perfect mix of snow. The accumulation of perfect little snowflakes is not too dry nor too wet. It is the perfect blend for groomed ski and fat bike trails. It is also the perfect medium for sculpting snowmen, snow bears, and even stalwart Roman soldiers.
On the corner of Gold Creek and South Fork Gold Creek roads, the Luchtes have a Seattle Seahawk “snow fan” all decked out in 12th snowman gear. But the Seahawks are so hot, the little guy is practically melting in all his excitement.
A little further up the South Fork of Gold Creek there is a snow bear, a snow soldier, and a snow dial, along with a whole host of other intricately carved, frozen sculptures. The entire outdoor art gallery is the creative expression of local artist, Tony DeRosa.
Tony will sculpt images out of most anything: paper, wood and stone have all morphed into physical representations of his creativity. The snowstorms and freezing temperatures in December and January gave Tony yet another source of sculpting materials — snow and ice.
Tony’s design concept is far more precise than the giant rolled snowballs and resulting crisscrossed wacky paths that define a yard that hosts a snowman. The area around the sculptures is a neatly cleared art floor of packed snow. Visitors can easily walk around and enjoy the diverse collection.
When asked about how he came up with the idea of the soldier, Tony explained, “I dreamt about this Roman soldier the night before and when I woke up in the morning, I thought, ‘yeah, I can make that!’”
Tony first forms the snowy statues with mounds and mounds of packable snow. Features are then carved out of the surface — the rounded ears and nose of a bear, the curved edges of a heart, the expression on the lips of a soldier. When asked to describe his snow sculpting tools, Tony laughed. “The great thing about snow is anything will work as a tool — saws, spatulas …” he shrugged, “pretty much anything.”
Icicles — glistening exclamations of ice — are then added to the snow sculpture. The Roman soldier holds a nearly 3-foot sword that just days ago hung as an icicle from the edge of Tony’s roof. Stalactites of ice pierce the surface of various pieces, adding either drama or whimsy.
Other statues balance thick slabs of ice gleaned from the southern fork of Gold Creek that flows nearby. The thick panes of ice glisten in the sun like glass and crystal. Throughout the day, the reflection changes — frosted in the morning, luminous in the bright afternoon.
Other art galleries may rotate their featured art every few months. Tony’s gallery evolves daily. Features and expressions change with the warmth of the sun before freezing overnight. Statues soften and lean ever so slightly in differing degrees before submitting completely to the snow covered ground. New sculptures appear, freshly carved and formed in sharp detail, next to their melting counterparts.
If you think about it, Tony’s art is a living gallery, frozen in situ.