Extreme Painting: Artist Sarah Cain Hits the Slopes With New Aspen Ski Lodge Mural

Altitude sickness and snowstorms were no match for the artist.

Sarah Cain, Mountain Song (2017), installation view. Presented in collaboration with the Aspen Skiing Company at Elk Camp, Snowmass Mountain. Courtesy Aspen Art Museum. Photograph by Tony Prikryl.
Sarah Cain, Mountain Song (2017), installation view. Presented in collaboration with the Aspen Skiing Company at Elk Camp, Snowmass Mountain. Courtesy Aspen Art Museum. Photograph by Tony Prikryl.

When skiers visit Snowmass Mountain outside Aspen, Colorado, this season, they’ll be greeted at the Elk Camp by a colorful large-scale installation by painter Sarah Cain. The project, titled Mountain Song, is a joint effort by the Aspen Art Museum and the Aspen Skiing Company, which have been collaborating for the past 12 years on the Art in Unexpected Places initiative.

Cain has created a large, layered wall work, similar to her colorful courtyard mural, Now I’m going to tell you everything, at the newly opened ICA LA (on view through December 31). The process of installing the two works, however, couldn’t have been more different.

“The ICA is in a downtown parking lot, and this was on top of a mountain!” Cain, who claims to have spotted a gray wolf during her travels to and from the peak, tells artnet News. “I was driving up the actual ski runs that people will be going down soon.”

Sarah Cain's Now I'm going to tell you everything (2017), on the 7th Street courtyard wall at the ICA in Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane, courtesy of the artist and ICA LA.

Sarah Cain, Now I’m going to tell you everything (2017), on the 7th Street courtyard wall at the ICA in Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane, courtesy of the artist and ICA LA.

Both works incorporate individual canvases that hang from the wall, creating something of a patchwork effect. For Aspen, Cain painted the canvases back in her Los Angeles studio before flying to Colorado to make the mural, which replaces Shinique Smith’s Resonant Tides. (Teresita Fernández and Dave Muller have previously created murals for Elk Camp.)

“I was afraid of the altitude sickness,” Cain says, and worried she would lose valuable painting time to illness. Once she was on site, however, the piece evolved organically, and she found herself flipping and cutting up her prepared canvasses before incorporating them into the final work. “It’s a really crazy way to make art, when you don’t plan anything and you have to do it all in the moment,” she says.

Luckily, Cain finished slightly ahead of schedule—and just in time to fly back home ahead of an approaching snowstorm.

Sarah Cain, <em>Mountain Song</em> (2017), installation view. Presented in collaboration with the Aspen Skiing Company at Elk Camp, Snowmass Mountain. Courtesy Aspen Art Museum. Photograph by Tony Prikryl.

Sarah Cain, Mountain Song (2017), installation view. Presented in collaboration with the Aspen Skiing Company at Elk Camp, Snowmass Mountain. Courtesy Aspen Art Museum. Photograph by Tony Prikryl.

In addition to Mountain Song, the Aspen Skiing Company has chosen Paula Crown to create this year’s limited-edition ski lift tickets, following in the footsteps of Laura Owens, who created last year’s flying lemon design.

Crown’s tickets feature five photographs of Solo Together, her installation of 150 plaster sculptures of red Solo Cups that look like the aftermath of a very enjoyable party. (The piece, shown this summer at London’s 10 Hanover, also questions our consumption of single-use plastic objects.)

Paula Crown, <em>Solo Together</em> lift-ticket for the Aspen Skiing Company. Courtesy of Art in Unexpected Places.

Paula Crown, Solo Together lift-ticket for the Aspen Skiing Company. Courtesy of Art in Unexpected Places.

The Elk Camp mural, meanwhile, is not the only public art project in the works for Cain. She’s also creating a work with the San Francisco Arts Commission for the SFO Airtrain, her first major work in stained glass.

The piece is a 10-foot by 148-foot stained glass wall at the airport’s new terminal. Cain will use a technique known as fused glass, which blends different colors of glass together directly rather than sectioning them off with thin strips of lead. “It’s basically crushed glass melted in the kiln,” she says.

To develop she work, she collaborated with Los Angeles’s Judson Studios, a historic glass studio that did the windows for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. “I didn’t know anything about glass a year ago,” Cain says.

Further down the pipeline is upcoming project with Rice University, recently pushed back to 2019—due, unsurprisingly, to the artist’s busy schedule.

Sarah Cain’s Mountain Song is on view at Elk Camp on Snowmass Mountain, November 24, 2017–September 30, 2018. 


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