Tom Grotting credits the polar vortex for the brilliant art installation that's about to sweep the nation's cold-weather states. That, and his brother Steve.
A couple years ago, when Minnesota was beset by its coldest winter in living memory, Grotting decided to make the best of a bad situation. Borrowing a trick he'd seen his brother do once, Grotting threw water on a pair of pants and took them outside to let them freeze. Then he stood the icicle jeans up in the snow, as if invisible, frostbitten people were standing there having a conversation.
The rest is (hilarious) history. Grotting's continued doing the frozen pants gag, and this year posted some of his efforts to a neighborhood Facebook page for northeast Minneapolis, where he lives. The reaction was tremendous, and a bit unexpected. Pictures resulting from his work have gone viral. The story appeared on The Today Show. ABC News covered it.
Grotting took the sudden fame of his jeans in stride, and is still a bit bemused by the whole thing.
"You mean, how did I wind up getting interviewed on Telemundo?" Grotting says, laughing. "People are just damn bored, I think. I don't know what's going on."
He's set them up in a few different places around town. Maybe his favorite is outside his business, Digital Pictures, where he can watch out the window as people walking by on the street stop to "interact with the pants." His only setback was at his kid's school, where an attempted installation was halted by a grounds manager.
"My wife sort of enjoys it," Grotting says. "She puts up with it. My kids? To varying degrees."
So, how's it done? First, you need the right temperature. ("Colder than hell," Grotting specifies.) Then, soak the pants and hang them up outside, to let them begin to stiffen. Once they're rigid, they can be taken back in to thaw a bit, making them more pliable for posing.
Maybe someone inside your frozen pants is getting down on one knee, to propose to another pair of pants. One of your pairs of jeans could be stumbling home, half-drunk. Maybe your frozen pants are doing the Twist. Get creative!
Grotting's thinking of doing an instructional YouTube video to help out his many curious admirers. Some day soon, the frozen sidewalks of Minneapolis might have fewer frozen people than frozen pants. We can only hope.
What's next? He's not sharing yet, though he hints that his wife has a few ideas they might try around the holidays next year. But like jeans themselves, the classic frozen pants will never go out of style.
"I've been locked on frozen pants for a while," Grotting says. "There's pretty much nothing funnier than frozen pants."
Goddamn it, Tom, when you're right, you're right.