Monday, February 04, 2008

Madison Winter Festival features only art form that eventually melts into a puddle

Ice Sculptor Maurie Pearson

Peter Patau Photos

Maurie Pearson is a La Crosse, Wisconsin artist who works in the most transient of media, one that will eventually melt into a pool of water -- although it certainly doesn't start out that way. Pearson was sprayed with icy particles as he roughed out the shape of an ice sculpture with a chain saw at the Madison Winter Festival Saturday afternoon.

Pearson drew a rapt audience on North Carroll Street just off the Square. Pearson's firm -- Black River Ice Sculptures -- creates ice sculptures for personal and business events. As his bio notes, he arrived at ice sculpture by a roundabout route.
Maurie Pearson is a nationally acclaimed professional ice sculptor. He developed his love for carving ice during his career as an Executive Chef for Hyatt and Radisson hotels. In the late 1980's, Pearson began to carve competitively at ice sculpture events around the country and began to hone his talent as an ice sculptor. His sculptures are known for their attention to detail and unique style.

Pearson gave up the kitchen and began carving ice professionally in Chicago during the early 90's. He began Chicago IceWorks in 1992 and the company produced about 2500 sculptures per year - mostly wholesale to hotels and country clubs. In 1999, he relocated to "God's Country" to spend more time with his family, where he owns and operates Black River Ice Sculptures in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

People always like to watch artists at work, but I think they were especially drawn to Pearson because what he does seems so magical. (Also he's damn good.) He creates beautiful objects with only one function -- to delight, briefly, before the substance out of which they are made reverts to its preferred state. I especially liked this example of his work because of the visual pun it embodies. This is Bucky Badger as a "real" ice fisherman, because of course, he is made of ice. It's amazing what Pearson can make out of a block of frozen water.

(Click on photos to enlarge in Flickr.)

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