This new addition to the Museum is certainly a work you’ll want to see before it melts away—pun intended. Recently rotated into the Museum’s SECU Collection Hall, Margaret Curtis’s relatively new painting, The Ice Sculpture, immediately caught my attention by distinguishing itself through intricate technical skills and unique, thoughtful storytelling. Full of creative characters, meaningful metaphors, and artistic attributes, this composition has so much to consider and appreciate. Quickly growing to be one of my favorite works within the Museum, this painting particularly fascinates me because of the artist’s attentive approach to its creation and the personal story that it depicts.
Taking the initiative to make a more true-to-life scene, Curtis utilized hands-on experimentation to precisely paint certain depictions within this artwork. Curtis formed genuine ice sculptures using her freezer to gain inspiration and learn how ice refracts light and distorts surrounding objects. Additionally, the red ranch house illustrated in the painting background was physically constructed out of cardboard and placed behind her homemade ice sculptures, allowing her to paint the scene with remarkably accurate detail. Extremely evident, Curtis’s dedication adds character to the painting and highlights her devotion to her vision.
In addition to displaying Curtis’s commitment to her painting process, The Ice Sculpture also highlights her passion for intimate narrative and storytelling. Portraying a narcissist and the turmoil they create, nothing within this painting was unintentional. For example, the ice sculpture himself represents a narcissistic person and the upkeep they require; his shiny oil paint glow depicts the attractive yet manipulative character of a selfish, deceptive person. The woman and children who appear in the painting are deliberately contrasted with the ice sculpture and made to appear humanistic and flawed—they’re not trying to deceive. Literally and metaphorically, the humans are made differently than the narcissistic ice sculpture.
—Benjamin Nikolai, spring 2021 visitor services intern
This artwork is on view in Intersections in American Art.