Visitors to the Frozen River Film Festival will be greeted by a great white whale.
Minneapolis artist John Njoes was hired to sculpt a 12-foot-by-8-foot sculpture of the iconic sperm whale from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” for the FRFF and this year’s Rockwell Kent Centennial Celebration.
The whale is being sculpted from nearly two tons of crystal-clear ice.
It honors Kent, who illustrated one of the editions of Melville’s book about Captain Ahab and his all-consuming quest to hunt down the book’s namesake.
Njoes and his partner, John Cooper, started work on the sculpture Monday morning, and by noon Tuesday had finished the rough outline and fused individual ice blocks together to form the body. Njoes planned to sand the sculpture to produce a white texture, leaving only a cold, black eye to stare out at those who pass by.
“The eye is going to be the really tricky part,” Njoes said. “That and fusing the blocks together. Adding the water was pretty tricky.”
Neither Cooper nor Njoes mind the cold, but Monday was almost too extreme for them to work — cold weather makes the ice more brittle.
Despite the uncooperative weather, Njoes lost only one block of ice to cracking. By early Tuesday evening, most of the sculpture had been finished with only the eye and some detail work left to be done.
The sculpture will be on display for the opening of the Frozen River Film Festival and is also part of a preview for the Rockwell Kent Celebration being held in February. Funding for the sculpture was donated by the FRFF, Boats and Bluegrass Festival and Winona residents.
“This celebrates the different festivals and the community coming together through the arts,” said Thomas Fassbender, who was the director for the sculpture project. “The sculpture of Moby Dick symbolizes Rockwell Kent and his contributions.”
Update 1/24/2013: In an earlier version of this story, the Winona Daily News incorrectly said that Njoes was from St. Paul. He is from Minneapolis. The Winona Daily News regrets this error.