Anne Marie Tabardo looked up from carving Alice with a smile that was guaranteed to melt an icy heart, or cold art for that matter. A collection of ice carving chisels rested on the ground next to her. A seriously long one was poised in her hand. It was obvious that she was having fun with her sculpture. A tall tree of ice towered over her and the diminutive Alice, who was apparently ready to dive into the rabbit hole. Off to the right were what looked suspiciously like fly agaric: magic mushrooms. I suspect they are quite common in the land of hookah smoking caterpillars. I wondered if the judges would give Anne an A for authenticity, or even recognize the mushrooms.
Anne hails from the United Kingdom where these same hallucinogenic fungi were recently found on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. An official was quick to assure everyone that the mushrooms from the garden would not be used in the kitchen. The Queen would not be prancing around the palace.
Prior to becoming involved in ice art, Anne worked at Madame Tussaud’s and The British Museum creating replicas of famous people. She has a degree in fine arts from the National Art School in Sydney and at the City and Guilds of London Art School. Her father, Juan, who runs a florist shop in Sydney, Australia, flew in to Fairbanks to help with the sculpture.
Ice Alaska, the organization supporting the ice art competition in Fairbanks, includes brief bios on most of the carvers. Some, like Anne, are art school graduates. Others came by their profession by less direct routes. For example, Chris Foltz, one of the carvers of Soul Catcher, is executive chef at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute. Ice sculptures are often on display at fancy group dinners such as those found on cruise ship. In these cases, ice carving skills are a plus for chefs. Both of the artists for Spark come from culinary backgrounds. Tajana Rauker from Croatia studied culinary arts in Krk, Croatia. Her partner in carving Spark, Ted Wakar, is an executive chef at Ford Motor Company.
Ice carving artists are often involved with related art activities such as wood carving. Ben Firth, who along with his brother Barnabas, was responsible for carving Conflict, also carves antlers, sculpts in bronze, and works in pencil and watercolors. His art is sold out of the family’s art studio in Anchor Point, Alaska. Ivan Loktyukhin, is another multi-talented artist, who has won numerous prizes for his wood carving and metal sculptures as well as ice art. Ivan holds a degree in Architectural Design from the Russian Pacific National University. Along with Vadim Polin, Ivan was responsible for creating Yahoo!
Another artist who caught my attention was Lkhagvadorj Dorjsuren (AKA George) who was the first person from Mongolia to carve ice. He won his first contest in Finland where no one spoke his language. One of his dreams is to start a competition in Mongolia that would draw tourists. Sign me up! He and his partner Enkh-Erdene Ganbataar, (aka Eggi) created the rather humorously named sculpture AAAHH BaaMMM Beee Beeem. (Yeah, I don’t have a clue, either.) George, working with Altankhuu Khishigdalai, also helped create The Beginning of Time.
I have only been able to cover a few of the participating artists. If you are interested in learning more about these artists or others involved check out the Ice-Alaska website. NEXT BLOG: I will finish up my blogs on the world ice art competition.