A Photo Essay documenting the creation of an art piece by Simon Beck at Target field. Shot on January 31st and February 1st 2018.
Within the first five minutes of our meeting on Tuesday I knew that the next two days were going to offer some sort of subtle surprises with an obviously obtruse one waiting at the end. And although the finished work is spectacular, spectating its creation might have been better.
I had only recently found out about this professional snow artist and now here we were in a large board room at target field talking to him about process and possibilities. I would describe Simons accent as incredibly thick. We speak the exact same language but the British accent has a way of making you patient at times. We were already so excited to talk with him and this gave so much more presence to the room when Simon spoke. His sentences were short and some of them seemed to get left behind in his mustache from time to time, I think we were all just so enamored with the eagerness of finally being able to hear from start to finish how the hell this was going to work. Upon seeing his finished art you can't help but feel a sense of immense reverence and frailty. I couldn’t stop thinking about the impermanence of it all.
You mean you’re going to work on this for two whole days and it may or may not just disappear the day after your finished and you’re ok with that? That was just one of the many thoughts percolating in my brain.
Also, it turns out Simon listens a lot more than he talks. This in my mind is a great human quality that so few people have. He absorbs. He reacts as necessary and most things don’t warrant much. It wasn’t long before he was drawing/sketching out plans on a white board in the room while he began to chat with the groundskeeper of the field. They talked distances, current snow conditions on the field and before long we started seeing swirls.
Something was stirring in Simon’s mind, the fires under his creative cauldron were lit and a myriad of mixtures were starting to procure.
When we create, it is within the core of our leaving, that upon the outset of that creation we find the fire by which we were once set ablaze. To find the source of our desires we must put ourselves in the place of those who performed the act of formation before us.
These placeholders of personification could take the form of anything really, a parent, a pillar of faith, a pearl plucked from the oceans depths, the digging of a grave, concrete slabs bearing initials from past decades, a song brought to life by strings and a sentence, a seed cast to the side, a note left for a lover, a cry for help left in the form scars on an arm, these are all things purely performed because of a causation, and a causation is the literal prologue to the creators cast, the frame he/she makes in her mind before the action takes place.
There are moments of genius. There are moments of reverence. There are moments of deep, deep human empathy. Art is the arc created by all three.
Simon's process from what I can gather is not too dissimilar to the many depths of desire that those that deem art a pathway to purpose endure. There is a sacrificial quality in it, that very quality struck me front and center the second he walked through the elevator doors. He is quiet, he is quirky. He will at any moment break out into robust song, criticize the civil order of things, and take a methodical look at design functions that do a disservice to older people. I've realized that you cannot have ideas as interesting as the art form Simon has discovered without losing a piece of yourself to the intent. Whether it is an unkempt appearance, a minor loss of social skills, or even the inability to keep ones thoughts off the next creation. I have had the fortunate pleasure of photographing many different artists in many different facets of brilliance and I appreciate the beauty of the bereft, the way they've lost something society assumes one should have. And in those unconventional berths a bold instance is inducted, brought forth from a far off fragment of fable, only to resonate forthwith behind the eyes of an elder son. Simon embodies the evocation of solitude and the subtle storms that brew within that stillness.
This is what it looks like to be constantly called to create. The voice of an otherwise cavernous void.
Near sixty years of age, Simon has the stamina of a stallion. Watching him streamline across the field was nothing short of a poetic spectacle. The layers he would shed during his process were snakelike, gloves and jackets falling away in stride with his small surveillance between detail and oddly enough the changing of his body temp reminded me of some reptilian resilience because he rarely took breaks. Day one we had pretty nice weather but during day two a few minutes outside even in the most layered gear left you frigid and forlorn. Some segments seem to go on for hours upon hours and he does not stop moving, minus the occasional surveillance of said distances from under his breath. He didn't use the aids of any sort, merely manifesting the masterpiece from memory.
He is rarely still, a ballet of pattern and passion.
We did break for lunch once each day. At one point during our break I think we calculated some 45 thousand steps it would take him to complete the drawing, and he sometimes goes over his drawings twice in some spots. Seeing him in the middle of his process was pretty spectacular, he would constantly run back and forth between the window and a coffee, surveying the site to reconvene the soldiers in his mind for the next wave of what was to come. The eagerness was like the excited scene one sees on christmas morning, as he gazed through the glass guessing how much time had gone by.
In synthesizing what Simon has done you will derive at only one sure and stable sentiment; somewhere down the slide of human history we became slightly detached from natures definitive inclusion in our interim, a dislocation, a deviation. I can't help but feel we've been clawing our way back toward it ever since. This man has extended his arm a little farther in this rehabilitation. I look at these photos and know that probably even now, a few hours after I last gazed upon his finished work the existence of it has changed, the wind does not grow weary and if it does erosion will undoubtedly ease in eloquently instead.
All I am saying is the final version that I witnessed is now old but yet new to someone else and eventually in a day or twos time all remaining traces of Simon even being there will be gone. There is a calming in this. It isn’t too dissimilar from monks making mosaics out of rice. You spend the hours putting finite fragments to form and when the dexterity has been defined you swipe the slate clean in a sacrifice to your very sacrifice.
If there is anything I learned about Simon’s work over two days time its that his art is meandering between the mystery of meaning and mortality.
As this tiny human took it upon himself to hurl intimacy and intricacy into the snow I couldn't help but feel like swatches of my childhood wonderment were being woven back to some new state of whole.
The most humbling part was when Simon laid the final impression of footwork into the ground. I had just come back down to the field to let him back up through the elevator, when I stepped out onto the frozen field his final foot hit the center of his drawing and he raised both arms toward the deep blue sky, softened by the stadium lights and howled out gently to the distant gods. A christening to the concentric circles curated in his head.