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Monday, May 11, 2015

Artist on the Block

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Executive chef charms guests with talent on ice

Eddie Marusarz may not have a nickname, but he does think of himself as a chainsaw manicurist.

As the executive chef at the Petroleum Club, Marusarz has a unique talent aside from his cuisine. For more than 10 years, Marusarz has been the notable ice sculptor behind all events held at the Petroleum Club of Shreveport and other events held at East Ridge Country Club, Southern Trace and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.

“It’s an interesting medium,” Marusarz said.

Though he calls the ice his medium, Marusarz fails to consider himself an artist.

“I have people like Sandi Kallenberg and Pam Atchison calling me an artist all the time, and I just feel like if I can do it, everyone else should be able to do it,” he said. “I’m nothing special, I never went to school for [ice sculpting], but over the years, I have learned to treat the ice and ask it to tell me what it is supposed to do.”

He said his process begins after an initial consultation with the client. Marusarz draws out the object on draft paper and then takes some time to conceptualize the work.

His medium comes from the Ice House on Monkhouse Drive in Shreveport. The business provides him with a 300-pound, 20-inch thick cube of ice. The freezer at the Petroleum Club transforms into his studio, and he soon begins to work. He uses an electric chainsaw, grinders and sometimes a router.

“It has to soften before you hit it,” Marusarz said. “It’s weird. You talk to the ice. It is constantly telling you want to do or what not to do.”

His work in ice covers everything from business logos to his replication of a gold Rolex watch – to which he is still receiving constant praise from.

Marusarz first started sculpting ice almost 20 years ago when he worked as a chef at the Doral Country Club in Miami.

“The chef handed me a chainsaw and said, ‘Here, go at it. Make me a shell,’” he said. “I always wanted to know how to do this. There was no education, no nothing just trial by error.”

From his first shell ice sculpting, 10 years later he took a job at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.

“I tried I couple of pieces [in Miami], but I really didn’t start carving ice until I took the job in [Shreveport] at Louisiana Downs,” Marusarz said. “[There] I had the opportunity to carve on the loading dock as the administration was leaving for the day. If they asked me what it was that I was carving, I would keep going until they knew what it was.”

Marusarz said the Shreveport Regional Art Council’s Christmas in the Sky event got him into perfecting his ice-sculpting techniques.

“Every other year [Christmas in the Sky] would challenge me, whatever the theme was,” he said. “I would tackle the idea of tying in the food and the ice with the theme because then the whole thing would be cohesive, and it would make sense to people coming in the rooms.”

Aside from large events, Marusarz said he takes a lot of pride in his work for weddings and parties.

“I always try to get with the client that I am working with and ask what do you want people to see as they are entering the room and what kind of identity do you want them to see with the ice,” he said. “It is a big deal to them – it has something to do with their party or wedding. I don’t just want a piece of ice in the middle of the room that means nothing to them. I’m only going to do it once – especially for weddings.”

Marusarz recalled a particular wedding where he sculpted a scuba diver. The diver matched the groom’s profession. He said his scuba diver brought the bride to tears.

“I had no idea at the time how significant that was for her, but I know when I went in there to check on it. They said, ‘Oh my God, she cried when she came into the room.’ That is such an awesome feeling to know that I hit it and got it right,” Marusarz said.

Marusarz said he loves the fact that his work doesn’t last and is constantly changing. He said he never turns down a project and never creates the same piece twice.

“It is water eventually. It is never going to exist again, and it has never existed before and I love that aspect of it. This is your piece. This is your wedding, and it will never look like this anywhere else again anyway that I do it,” he said.

Marusarz said with each block he works hard to create a masterpiece. “If it doesn’t work,” he said, “kick it over.”

–Lydia Earhart

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