Snow Drawings: Artist Sonja Hinrichsen Creates Aerial Masterpieces

Curators’ Corner

Snow Drawings: Artist Sonja Hinrichsen Creates Aerial Masterpieces

Many would consider walking in the snow to be more of a task than a calling to create art, but Sonja Hinrichsen sees snow as her canvas.

The German-born, San Francisco-based artist plots along for miles to create her Snow Drawings, the most recent of which saw the recreation of a Colorado river and drainage system. At the conclusion of a three-day seminar on water issues in Colorado, Hinrichsen and approximately 50 volunteers strapped up their snowshoes and walked an artist rendering of the Yampa River and its tributaries near Lake Catamount in the northwestern region of the state. Take a look at a few aerial shots from the installation near Steamboat Springs:

we-are-the-water_11 we-are-the-water_03 we-are-the-water_01

From her website:

“With approximately 50 volunteers we created an artistic rendering of the water drainage system of the Routt County Yampa River segment on a frozen reservoir lake – created by a dam on that same river.  Entering the lake from 4 different locations along the shoreline the snowshoe performers indicated the 4 main tributaries and would then congregate in the center of the lake to “flow” through the former river valley in commemoration of the course of the original river. Although flowing as one body of water each performer – like an individual drop of water – was asked to take into consideration how water moves, how it can be fast or slow, take a straight course or meander, bump up against rocks, whirl around obstacles, linger in puddles or race down rapids.”

Hinrichsen described the roots of her inspiration to the Huffington Post:

“Snow Drawings started out of play, during an artist residency in the Colorado Rockies in the winter of 2009,” she said. “I had brought snowshoes — mainly so I could go hiking in the mountains, and not get stuck in waist-deep snow. However, there were these amazing stretches of pristine snow, no footprints, not even animal tracks, as the snow was so deep. So I started walking into them and making all kinds of little patterns. I didn’t think of it as an arts project at all, it was just for fun. At some point I took my camera with me to photograph the patterns — and that’s when it became interesting.”

Interesting is an understatement. These are jaw dropping, large-scale works that reciprocate nature’s winter beauty. And they’re temporary, which Hinrichsen said adds to their character.

“They are there only until the snow melts or the next snow storm — in some cases, they even disappear due to snow drifts that simply fill in the tracks with fine snow,” she told the Huffington Post. “Sometimes they are there barely long enough for me to be able to photograph them… Sometimes it feels like magic.”

Much of Hinrichsen’s work takes place in Colorado, but she also visits New York and the French Alps. Here’s a 2011 piece from Chatham, NY:


To learn more about Hinrichsen and see more of her work, visit her website at

All Images © Sonja Hinrichsen