Ice Machine Notes

Winters in Southern California are nothing like the ones I saw in storybooks as a child. At Christmas time when my mother drove across the Hollywood Freeway with me in the back seat, I'd gaze out the windows when it was grey, cold or rainy and try to imagine what snow was like. I searched desperately to find it in my back window landscape until finally I did –in a supermarket parking lot –a metal box with snow laden letters, I-C-E.

Back seat gazing during long drives in Los Angeles while growing up shaped my view of the world. I was intrigued by eccentric candy colored cars, architecture and signs. Signs, with big type and neon – blinking with motion. My eagle eye scoped them out like I was on an Easter egg hunt, only these treasures were made of different letters, typefaces and illustrations: I-C-E.

I moved with my mother to Washington, DC when I was sixteen years old. I received a BFA in Graphic Design from the Corcoran School of Art in 1985. I didn't like graphic design, but delighted in the ephemera of design. I bought a letterpress so I could explore my own typographic desires. I was also given a printing press when I was visiting family friends in LA in the late 80's. But it wasn't until 1993 that I finally got a drive-away car in Los Angeles, put the printing press in the back seat, the type in the trunk, and drove back east.

I began this trip with an unending supply of black and white film and a desire to document the American west –with its wide open spaces, something I missed while living in the east. I woke up before the sun and got out of Los Angeles before the morning rush hour. I pulled off the road and slept in the car in a parking lot in the Imperial Valley. After waking, I decided that everything that I liked must be photographed. I could not be lazy. These photographs were going to be a cache of images I was going to use for a long time and I couldn't keep on making trips across the United States to collect them (although it turns out I did keep on making trips across the US). There were enough desert miles for me to meditate on the idea, and later that morning I took a photograph of my first Ice Machine.

I continued photographing Ice Machines, trucks with different logos and the changing landscape driving east, as well as the darkness before sunrises along the highway. I discovered on this road trip that the type on the ice machines was different everywhere, and the scenery around the machines was just as interesting. The edges framing these machines represented a purely American street object. The Ice Machine was it. It was a portrait of our American Landscape.

These machines are positioned proudly in front of gas stations and 24 hour markets, we need ice. Americans love ice. I thought about ice a lot. In 1999, with over 50 ice machines photographed, I printed them on 5" X 8" fiber paper, with an image of about 3"X5". I wrote with a Sharpie pen on the photograph below the image, the location, both city and state, and the date the film was exposed. I then placed them in a large frame with a 12 opening matt. Three of these series were made. These pieces debuted at a solo show in Seattle entitled, "People, Landscapes, Ice Machines and Stuff".

I was very unsure about the Ice Machines. I felt that I had a personal relationship with them and that I was announcing some kind of bizarre boyfriend to my friends or something. I ignored them at the opening, and people were a bit overwhelmed by my exhibit. The ice machines were only three of eighty works, but many comments ensued. I moved the exhibit to Space 1026 art gallery in Philadelphia in early 2000. There, I sold one of the three collections. The other two will remain with me permanently even though they have been exhibited many more times.

I showed a smaller seven-print version in a 16" X 20" matte that I carted across Europe on a train to a self-booked five show tour of the Seattle show (unframed). The last location was in Bilbao, purposely planned so I could have time to see the Guggenheim. The general consensus on the Ice Machines was: Europeans couldn't understand how there could be so much ice in America. In Bilbao, the Spanish talked a lot about the Ice Machines and spoke candidly about the American obsession of Ice. I went back to the US with a new found understanding of ice. I soon sold one of these smaller unframed versions to a store in Japan.

In 2001, I designed and published a boxed set of 22 postcards called the "Box of Ice Boxes". I sold these all over the world, and they were including as the "featured gift" at the The American Ice Association's annual meeting.

Also in 2001 I attended Auburn University's Rural Studio in Alabama and spent an entire year documenting the southern Ice Machine in it's strictly rural setting. In 2004 I was asked to exhibit the ice machines in the "Beautiful Losers" exhibit. I printed 20 photographs on 16" X 20" fiber paper, with about a 3" white border and enough room for me to write with a Sharpie the location, both city and state, and date where the ice machine was found. They were framed with a white matte and black frame and hung in a grid. This exhibit, which was curated by Aaron Rose and Christian Strike, was reviewed in the January 2005 Art in America with a paragraph dedicated to my ice machines.

The Beautiful Losers exhibit including work from artists: Raymond Pettibon, Larry Clark, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Campbell, Brian Donnelly [KAWS] , Cheryl Dunn, Todd James [REAS] , Jo Jackson, Shepard Fairey, Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, Ryan McGinley, Tobin Yelland, Pushead, Phil Frost, Neil Blender, Ryan McGinness, Craig R. Stecyk, Stephen Powers [ESPO], Ari Marcopoulos, Mike Mills, R. Crumb, Geoff McFetridge, Henry Chalfant, Spike Jonze, Glen E. Friedman, Clare E. Rojas, Andy Warhol, Futura, Andy Jenkins, Margaret Kilgallen, Wes Humpston, Rostarr, Keith Haring, Terry Richardson, Harmony Korine, Tommy Guerrero, Evan Hecox, Mark Gonzales, James Jarvis and Chris Johanson. In 2008 it was exhibited in Denmark at Århus Kunstbygning, and finally in Madrid at Casa Encendida.

Below you will find a gallery of "oddity" Ice Machines that don't quite fit into the main gallery but I think are interesting nonetheless.

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