Snowmass artwork is Sheer Bliss |

Snowmass artwork is Sheer Bliss

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass Village correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Madeleine Osberger/Snowmass SunArtist Bland Hoke has created a sculpture on the slopes at Snowmass using cable from the ski area's disassembled Sheer Bliss lift.

SNOWMASS ” What’s the best use for a half-mile of chairlift cable that would otherwise be sold as scrap metal?

For artist Bland Hoke, an intern at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, those thousands of yards of cable (known in the industry as “wire rope”) live on as a sculpture that’s temporarily situated on upper Fanny Hill, on the lower slopes at Snowmass.

Appropriately enough, the sculpture is called “Sheer Bliss.” It could be considered an homage to the now dissembled double chair that served the Big Burn area; a new quad is now being installed to replace the old lift. Little, if anything, is left of the original lift, as the higher capacity chairs require modern mechanisms that can carry far heavier loads.

Absent its sale to another ski area or recreation area ” Snowmass’ Naked Lady chair, for example, will have a second life in Lutsen, Minn. ” lift parts often have little value other than scrap.

The artist stumbled upon some spools of old wire rope in May as he was flying down the mountain on a sled and decided to ask ski area manager Steve Sewell about its reuse. Sewell thought about it for a millisecond and then agreed to donate some of the rope for the project.

“I’m thrilled Bland approached us about it,” Sewell said.

A native of Jackson Hole, Wyo., and the recipient of a fine arts degree from Alfred University, Hoke said he first became interested in cable as art when the Jackson tram was disassembled. “I’ve had this idea brewing for a couple of years,” said Hoke, a lifelong skier. The artist said he became further intrigued about reusing existing lift materials after a reading an article about Naked Lady’s next life.

That he should stumble upon the raw materials from Sheer Bliss during a sojourn on the hill is fortuitous and coincidental ” if you believe in coincidences.

The sculpture, which uses about four tons of the cable, came to life this summer at Anderson Ranch with the help of Matthew Fischer, the studio manager for painting, drawing and critical studies, sculpture department head Doug Casebeer and studio manager Jason Speich. Comprised of eight different sections, “Sheer Bliss” utilizes trailer hitch materials to hold the pieces in place. While the assembly took about 12 hours, the actual welding “took a long time,” said Hoke.

Standing beside the sculpture on a hot late August afternoon, the artist offered that “it moves in a linear direction.” Indeed, the coils seem to have movement within their otherwise static borders.

Hoke went on to note that “some people connect with it.” Others, meanwhile may not necessarily “get it” but are quick to offer their take on what the hefty wires evoke. Some claim it has a butterfly feel. Steve Sewell half-joked that “it sort of reminds me of what my fishing reel looks like sometimes!”

“It’s really a neat use of salvaged lift parts,” Sewell added.

A mountain biker pedaling uphill offered his assessment: “Nice work, man!” he shouted.

Where “Sheer Bliss'” future lies is uncertain. Situated in the middle of a ski trail, it will most certainly have to be relocated when the snow flies. Sewell wants to see it moved somewhere so skiers and riders can perpetually view it: “It would be great to see when the snow starts piling on it.”

For his part, Bland Hoke would like to complete a similar installation at another resort: “The ability to recycle material and sell it as art is awesome,” he said.

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