CULTURE & ARTS
12/12/2014 08:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Artist Walks For Hours In Snowshoes To Create Sublime Snow Drawings

Sonja Hinrichsen is a snow artist. It's not her official title -- she conducts a lot of art interventions in nature, and pursues photography and good ol' fashioned ink drawings. But her snow drawings are nestled rightfully at the top of her artist website, revealing what happens when a professional artist gets her hands on snowshoes, and walks for hours to channel the wonders of land art.

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The sprawling designs appear like abstract crop circles, or whatever beautiful landscape would result from Kandinsky taking an afternoon to track circles in the snow. Hinrichsen creates her stunning temporary works mostly in Colorado, with trips to New York and the French Alps, too. They can take up to a few days to complete, with the help of 50 or 60 volunteers. From an airplane, we imagine these masterpieces turn a mountain into something akin to a twirling work of street art.

"Snow Drawings started out of play, during an artist residency in the Colorado Rockies in the winter of 2009," Hinrichsen explained to HuffPost. "I had brought snowshoes -- mainly so I could go hiking in the mountains, and not get stuck in waist-deep snow. However, there were these amazing stretches of pristine snow, no footprints, not even animal tracks, as the snow was so deep. So I started walking into them and making all kinds of little patterns. I didn't think of it as an arts project at all, it was just for fun. At some point I took my camera with me to photograph the patterns -- and that's when it became interesting."

For Hinrichsen, open landscapes and frozen lakes make the most ideal spaces for snow drawings. Some designs are based on the natural surroundings. A 2014 work in Colorado, for example, channels the spirit of the Yampa River, in which volunteers walked across a lake wearing snowshoes to pay tribute to the "moods of water." Most involve concentric circles; ethereal echoes that seem to reach up and out beyond our atmosphere.

"My environmental interventions are temporary," she added, "especially the snow drawings. They are there only until the snow melts or the next snow storm -- in some cases, they even disappear due to snow drifts that simply fill in the tracks with fine snow. Sometimes they are there barely long enough for me to be able to photograph them... Sometimes it feels like magic."

The pieces, she asserts, live on in the resulting photographs. "That's enough. I don't want to leave any traces in nature. I feel like this planet is so scarred already through human activity and I don't feel like I want to add more traces as an artist. I never refer to my work as land art, but rather as 'interventions in the environment' -- if I have to name it."

You can see a preview of the wonder below.

  • Snow Drawings at Rabbit Ears Pass, Colorado, 2012. "Snow Drawings at Rabbit Ears Pass was created with a group of community v
    Snow Drawings at Rabbit Ears Pass, Colorado, 2012. "Snow Drawings at Rabbit Ears Pass was created with a group of community volunteers from Steamboat Springs and Hayden, Colorado, on two weekends in January/February 2012 – to both sides of the highway leading that leads across the mountain pass."
  • Snow Drawings, Hayden, Colorado, January 2011. "These Snow Drawings were created at Carpenter Ranch near Hayden/Steamboat Spr
    Snow Drawings, Hayden, Colorado, January 2011. "These Snow Drawings were created at Carpenter Ranch near Hayden/Steamboat Springs in Northern Colorado. Some of the drawings were on the frozen Yampa River, others on grazing lands close to the river. The large piece in the Yampa River bed took me several days – always coming back to continue where I had left ff the previous day. I was lucky to have clear weather and no snowfall during the days I was working on this piece."
  • Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013. "Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake was created during the 3 days between Frida
    Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013. "Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake was created during the 3 days between Friday February 1st and Sunday February 3rd 2013 in a joint effort with over 60 volunteers from Steamboat Springs and vicinity, who helped me walk giant spiral patterns with snowshoes . Despite deep, heavy snow that made walking difficult and strenuous we managed to create a stunning art piece on the frozen snow-covered lake. I was greatly impressed of the piece that revealed itself when I flew over the lake the next morning to take photos."
  • Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013
    Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013
  • We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado, 2014. "This Snow Drawings piece was created with approximately 50 volunte
    We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado, 2014. "This Snow Drawings piece was created with approximately 50 volunteer performers, who collaboratively recreated – in an abstracted sense – the original flow of the Yampa River and its 4 main tributaries within Routt County, CO. The river is now dammed and the valley is filled with water. In a 4-hour effort the groups of volunteers walked across the lake on snowshoes to create a pattern of a general stream as well as paying tribute to the moods of water, as its flow may be slow or fast, rough or smooth, straight or meandering, whirling in circles and racing down rapids. The piece was photographed from an airplane the day after the event."
  • We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado, 2014
    We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado, 2014
  • Snow Drawings at Ooms Pond, NY, 2011. "Snow Drawings at Ooms Pond were created on a small frozen lake near Chatham, NY (Ooms
    Snow Drawings at Ooms Pond, NY, 2011. "Snow Drawings at Ooms Pond were created on a small frozen lake near Chatham, NY (Ooms Conservation Area). Local residents contributed their active help to the work on the lake on a weekend in January 2011. Other pieces were created on the lands of Millay Colony Artist Residency nearby."
  • Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009. "I created my first Snow Drawings during an Artist Residency in the Colorado
    Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009. "I created my first Snow Drawings during an Artist Residency in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in February/March/April 2009. They started out of play during snowshoe walks and gradually evolved into an arts project over the course of my 3-month artist residency."
  • Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009
    Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009
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