Who: Artist Jenine Shereos
What: “Thaw,” a temporary installation consisting of five bottle-shaped ice sculptures that encased colorful plant specimens
Where: Now melted, “Thaw” sat on the shores of Jamaica Pond in early March
Spring is finally here, but lower than average temperatures and squalid, half-melted snowbanks remain, reminders of the harsh winter that wreaked havoc on local infrastructure and tested New Englanders’ spirits.
That clumsy, drawn-out transition between seasons, where early bulbs pop up on lawns still half-blanketed in snow, was on artist Jenine Shereos’s mind when she created her latest work, a temporary outdoor installation titled “Thaw.” Displayed on Jamaica Pond’s frosty shores early last month, the piece — five bottle-shaped ice sculptures encasing various flower and plant specimens — was both a visual dichotomy and a medium for winter and spring to coalesce.
“I was thinking about [“Thaw”] as a sort of harbinger of spring, which at this time of the year seems like it’s never going to come,” said Shereos, a sculptor and installation artist who specializes in fiber and textile processes. “I wanted to capture the awkwardness of the transition; going from winter to spring always seems strange and awkward.”
Shereos, 36, used a resin mold to create the 7-inch-tall ice bottles, which — each encapsulating a different plant — featured colorful specimens of St. John’s wort, daffodil, anemone, Blue Paradise, and leucadendron. Striking against a monochromatic landscape, the bottles were lined up in the snow along a walking path, with the frozen pond serving as a backdrop.
Camera in hand, the artist returned to the site several times in the days after setting up the installation, documenting the melting process and the resulting transformations in shape and color.
Having explored natural processes in much of her artwork, Shereos wanted to do the same with “Thaw,” introducing an uncontrollable element to the process. She was curious not only to see how the installation changed as it melted, but also whether people would move or even take the bottles.
“A lot of my work tends to be really controlled, so I wanted to do something where I could have a sort of experimental quality,” said Shereos, a Chicago native who received her MFA in studio art from California State University, Long Beach. “I wanted to see if people would notice them and interact with them. Part of it all was just seeing what would happen.”
Surprisingly, no one disturbed the bottles, and Shereos hopes that the installation evoked certain individual connotations — even if fleeting — for viewers walking by.
“I wanted a sort of personal quality, since people have really specific memories associated with flowers,” she said. “And I like the idea of something that’s ephemeral.”
Exhibiting “Thaw” at Jamaica Pond wasn’t a random choice. Besides knowing it was a good spot for exposure, Shereos — who moved to Boston nearly a decade ago and now lives near the pond — chose the Emerald Necklace locale for its natural history as a kettle pond, formed by a melting glacier thousands of years ago, and for its personal significance.
“Living in Jamaica Plain, I’m so grateful for the [Arnold] Arboretum and the pond, and they’ve been a source of inspiration for my artwork,” said Shereos. “Also, the area has a really rich history of preservation and cataloging plant life. ‘Thaw’ is kind of like a memento or an homage to that idea.”