This past weekend the 16th annual Burning Away the Winter Blues took place in Whitehorse. This yearly community celebration welcomes the arrival of spring with a torchlight procession along the Yukon River led by giant effigies and drummers to a massive bonfire where the community burns the effigies and any “winter blues” they wish to be rid of. For the second time I was asked to create the effigies for the event.
This year I created two versions of Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir from Norse mythology as a way to celebrate Norse and Chinese cultural traditions (2014 is the Year of the Horse). The effigies were 9 feet long each and were extended ten feet above the heads of the crowd. The were created from a combination of bamboo, wood, wire, and cardboard (thank you to Vince Federoff of the Whitehorse Star for capturing this in-progress photo).
We ran two community workshops in the lead-up to the event, one for children and one for adults, so that they could create their own smaller, 2D versions of Sleipnir to join a stampede towards the fire on Saturday night.
The crowd really seemed excited with the finished products and the event was as magical as the community has come to expect. It’s always bitter sweet to see the demise of ephemeral artwork – especially when it has taken so much effort to create and has caused you so many headaches – but it was also a very powerful moment when the horses hit the fire. Tyler Kuhn of al-Khemedia Studios captured the finished horses and the night festivities so I could share them with you here in both photo and video form. I highly recommend you check out his blog for some other amazing imagery of Yukon life.