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Local Snow Carving Team Takes 4th National Title

Mike Paulus

The winner of the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. – by Eau Claire-based team The Starvin' Carvists. Photos via Steve Bateman.
The winner of the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. – by Eau Claire-based team The Starvin' Carvists. Photos via Steve Bateman.

The sculpture is amazing. It's a fantastic mix of artistic expression, intricate detail, and advanced technical voodoo. The sculpture's main feature is a life-sized, life-like dancer suspended from an arching, curving, coiling column of ghostly people woven into a massive vine.

And all of it, every square inch of it, is made of snow.

The central figure – that dancer – appears to be barely touching the supporting arch, both arms and a leg pressing lightly against the twisting column. She's floating, the tips of her toes dangle inches above the ground. When you stop to consider the design, and the material, it's almost breathtaking.

"I'm really happy with this piece. It was figurative, expressive, beautiful and dark. It was not a cute crowd pleaser, it really pushed the materials and kept the art of the sport in the forefront." – Starvin' Carvist Steve Bateman

But that's the level craft we've come to expect from The Starvin' Carvists, a snow-sculpting team based in Eau Claire who, with the work described above, have claimed their fourth title at the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Held each year in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the competition draws artists from all over the country and beyond. This year saw not one, but two Wisconsin teams grabbing top honors, with another team from Wisconsin taking second place.

A Labor of Frosty Love

You've probably seen the work of the Starvin' Carvists over recent years next to the skating rink in Eau Claire's Boyd Park. Their sculptures have been a special attraction at the park's Thursday night Winter After Hours series, hosted each year by Volume One and Eau Claire's Parks, Recreation & Forestry department.

But the team steps it up for Nationals. Carvist Steve Bateman (the local artist behind the "Garbage Goose" next to Banbury place, the goldfish on Water Street, and more) says over two months of sketching, modeling, and other prep time went into this year's winning entry. The rest of this year's team was filled out by David Andrews and Kevin Sawicki both of Wauwatosa, Wis.

Longtime teammate and Eau Claire artist Jason Anhorn was unable to attend this year, but was on board for the group's previous victories in 2013, 2014, and 2015, not to mention a first place finish at an international competition back in 2007, when they traveled to Italy and carved against teams from 12 other countries.

Bateman says team captain David Andrews designed this year's entry, taking input from the rest of the team. On the sculpture's nerve-wracking challenges, he says, "There was so much detail and so many fragile areas that we had to work in a certain order on things, and in close quarters on parts without bumping into it."

Looking back at the team's past winners, it's obvious they like to create dynamic pieces, shaping the snow show movement and even tension. Bateman says, "I'm really happy with this piece. It was figurative, expressive, beautiful and dark. It was not a cute crowd pleaser, it really pushed the materials and kept the art of the sport in the forefront."

From the back.
From the back.

Want to See More?

You can learn more, see photos of this year's entries, and even watch a time lapse video of the Starving Carvists sculpting the piece at www.usnationals.org and the event's Facebook page.

And also! Bateman and Anhorn were recently featured in a cool commercial for blueberries produced by Fatherly. Check it out!