Item: Snow in Canadian and U.S. Art and Poetry, 1840-1980
Title: Snow in Canadian and U.S. Art and Poetry, 1840-1980
Proceedings: 1988 International Snow Science Workshop, Whistler, October 12-15
- Bernard Mergen
Abstract: Snow has been used by artists and poets for centuries because winter weather is especially rich in the kind of paradoxes that generate complex cultural responses. Snow falls soft, but turns hard. It appears uniform, but is composed of crystals of infinite variety. Winter is a time of killing cold, yet it is a season of germination and renewal in nature. Snow obscures the familiar, but reveals new forms. Long winter nights are turned to day by reflected moonlight. None of these paradoxes was lost on artists and writers in Canada and the United States. During the past 150 years, snow has been studied, played in, painted, celebrated, and cursed. Attitudes toward snow are revealed in many ways, paintings and poems are just part of the larger cultural context that makes up the history of snow. A survey of these creative responses suggests three hypotheses for further investigation: 1) That artists and poets find in snow and snowstorms useful symbols of creativity, renewal, and imagination. 2) That these artists are at least aware of ideas and discoveries in the sciences, so that new attitudes are expressed over time. 3) That although Canada and the U.S. share many attitudes toward winter weather, the artists show some differences in their depiction of snow, differences that, help to define the national identity of each country.
Language of Article: English
Keywords: art, poetry, snow, winter weather, cultural responses
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