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Olympic contenders.

For clues to ice carving, spend a few minutes with Steve Dean of Fairbanks and Kevin Roscoe of Seattle, Wash. In 1992, the two met in Fairbanks at an Ice Art international competition, where Roscoe won the People's Choice Award and Dean won the Artist's Choice Award.

Teaming their talents, the two took first place in the 1993 U.S. Olympic Trials ice-carving competition, winning the right to represent America at the Olympic Arts Festival, a cultural sidelight of the Olympic Games held in Lillehammer last February.

A chef for 10 years, Roscoe admits that "99 percent of ice sculptors come out of the kitchen," where they learn to carve ice commercially for buffet tables. "When you go to Alaska, people don't put that (commercial) restriction in their mind. They can do what they want to. I enjoy being exposed to the abstract works," Roscoe says.

Dean, a fossil ivory sculptor for almost 20 years, says, "I knew before I ever worked in ice that I would end up doing it professionally to some extent because of my sculpting ability."

At team ice competitions, one person usually acts as leader; the right team leader is critical for completing an ice carving in a short time period, where competition gets intense, very physical and stressful.

"You have to be strong physically and mentally to successfully complete a piece with the proper design that is worth doing in the amount of time that we have," Dean says.

Contrary to custom, Roscoe and Dean worked best as co-leaders. "We were really closely matched in a lot of different categories as far as our expertise," says Dean. "Kevin had more experience in ice, and I had more experience in sculpting."

One talent that helps the pair carve winning ice creations is what Dean calls "the ability to visualize something three-dimensionally inside a given space." He explains, "To have a successful sculpture, you really need to do a lot of forethought as to the end result and how that will be perceived and appreciated by the public, as well as your use of positive and negative space in conveying the idea.

"When you do that successfully, you end up with some brilliant pieces," he adds.

During the 54-hour Lillehammer event, the duo focused on carving an American theme. The final sculpture, entitled "Going, Going, Gone," featured a baseball batter having hit a home run, staring off at the arc of his imaginary ball with an amazed umpire and catcher. Competing against 16 international teams, the American pair pulled a third-place finish, behind two Japanese teams.

Though the ice carvers weren't recognized as Olympic athletes, their efforts were truly Olympian. "You shouldn't ignore the physical and mental effort it takes at those cold temperatures and at those hours to do what we do," says Dean. "It's very draining."

Back in Fairbanks, Dean says, "The event we have here is really gaining worldwide recognition. ... (But) we need to get some major sponsorship so we can continue to grow. Lots of really good sculptors can't afford to continue this."

Roscoe feels that ice-carving competitions are exposing American and European sculptors to the pleasures of carving ice. Unlike metal, stone or wood, ice is an easy medium to carve and, in a town like Fairbanks, the sculptures can last for months at a time.

"Fairbanks has a lot of things going for it with its big ice," Roscoe says. "I go there because of the experience, the ice, the people, the camaraderie."
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Title Annotation:ice artists
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Mar 1, 1995
Words:583
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