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This article was published 27/8/2008 (5052 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
VIDEO:Iceberg sculpture unveiled
Do not tell Winnipeg sculptor Gordon Reeve that his striking new piece of public art, Agassiz Ice, calls to mind a painting by Group of Seven member Lawren Harris.
He might fix you with a glare that suggests you just ran over his dog.
"A painting doesn't satisfy me," says the 62-year-old artist and professor.
"I can admire painting, but it doesn't have the physicality I'm interested in. Sculpture is about touch, movement, sound and the play of light."
A three-section stainless-steel work five metres at its tallest point and weighing 2,000 kilograms, Agassiz Ice is being installed near the footbridge to Assiniboine Park south of Portage Avenue at Overdale Street.
Reeve has been labouring for more than year, ever since he won the commission in a competition sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council's public art program. The $75,000 piece will be formally unveiled at a ceremony Thursday at 5 p.m.
"I wanted to suggest a sense of beginning," he says. "It's about a moment of change, important but inevitable change."
An idealist by nature, Reeve has been thinking about the role of the artist in society his entire career.
"There are significant consequences in preventing artists from speaking in their time," says Reeve, a native of Chatham, Ont., who moved to Winnipeg in 1976 to teach sculpture at the University of Manitoba's School of Art.
"Artists don't have a better way of looking at the world, just a different one, and they should be heard."
Reeve first came to public attention in 1985 when his towering sculpture, Justice, was installed in front of the Law Courts Building at York Avenue and Kennedy Street.
Also built of stainless steel, the three-legged dome-shaped structure was a $48,000 commission from the province.
At the time, the piece sparked controversy, both for its abstract design and because Reeve went outside the country to save money on his materials.
In the end, the piece still cost an extra $16,000, which he paid out of pocket.
"We had to remortgage our house," recalls Reeve, who has two adult children with his wife, Nancy, a nurse.
"I'm not crying about it. It had to be done," says Reeve, who made a commissioned sculpture for the Friesens printing plant in Altona in 2004.
In the late '80s, Reeve developed a second career as a documentary filmmaker, an interest that grew out of his desire to have a lasting record of a touring exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, on whose board he served.
His best-known work was the 1992 TV documentary Moment of Light, which followed Royal Winnipeg Ballet star Evelyn Hart to Paris. "People called Evelyn obsessive, but what she did took incredible focus," says Reeve.
Virtually every sculptor in Winnipeg in the last 30 years has passed through Reeves' classroom.
"He's one of the most important people I've met in my life," says his former student Mia Feuer, 27, now doing her master's at Virginia Commonwealth University, ranked the No. 1 graduate sculpture program in North America.
"I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am now without his guidance, mentorship and patience."
Agassiz Ice has been a massive undertaking for Reeve, who worked with professional ironworkers to bend, grind, weld and polish dozens of stainless steel sheets into a work of art that seems to change shape and colour from every perspective.
"It may not be good," he says, "but no one will look at it and say he did this in an afternoon."