'I will never look at a field of snow the same way again'

RAWLINS, Wyo. — Sonja Hinrichsen is internationally known for her snow drawings — intricate patterns etched into a snowfield with snowshoes.

Hinrichsen organized a communal art project Feb. 16 and 17. The unpredictability of the weather in Wyoming has made her project difficult, but for Hinrichsen and local participants it has opened up a new point of view.

"I'm seeing it as a positive thing," Hinrichsen said. Now she can focus on smaller and more intricate patterns she can make by herself. "It's really more about how the work is embedded in the landscape than about how big it becomes or how much area I cover."

Hinrichsen is an alumna of the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts residency program and a current resident artist. She began the project in Colorado in 2009 when snowshoeing for the first time.

About 10 people helped with the snow drawing that weekend. Clarke Turner was one of the participants who drove in from Casper for the two-day project.

Turner had to leave early in the afternoon to get back to Casper but said the experience made him look at the landscape differently.

"I have always have enjoyed cross country skiing and snowshoeing to experience Wyoming's wonderful outdoors, yet I have never had the same perspective that Sonja gave us that weekend," Turner wrote. "She looked at the landscape as her canvas, and as a result I saw the land in a different light."

Sally Patton agreed with Turner's new perspective.

Patton has been trying new ways to stay fit, she said. When she attended the Brush Creek Presents, where resident artists showed their skills and discussed art projects, Patton knew she had to join in Hinrichsen's communal snow drawing.

"It was one of my more fabulous experiences," Patton said.

When Patton arrived at Brush Creek Ranch on Feb. 16 to join the art project, her first impression of Hinrichsen's plan for the snow drawing was, "This looks so mathematical."

The drawing representing the art they were supposed to make by trekking through the snow in snowshoes was a complex diagram of circle designs.

Hinrichsen assured those who attended that it was easier than it looked, Patton said.

After hours of snowshoeing and an episode with the ranch dogs ruining the fresh canvas of snow, Patton said her pedometer informed her she had covered 2.62 miles on the first day of the project.

As she sat back and looked at the design she had created after hours of strenuous work, Patton said she realized how the artwork changed with the time of day and how it blended into the landscape.

Patton returned the next day to continue the project, but yet another storm was on the horizon. After working from morning to noon, the wind whipped and whisked the snow drawing away.

The art she had created lasted only for a day.

Still, Patton said the experience was worth it. "I will never look at a field of snow the same way again."