Jelgava's ice sculptures dazzle onlookers

  • 2007-02-14
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

ART ON THE ROCKS: Though no longer serving, the intricately carved ice bar is one of many works still on display least while the weather holds.

RIGA - Every year, hundreds of people from all over Europe gather in Jelgava, Latvia, for a festival of ice and snow art that warms the soul. The annual festival features dozens of sculptures of varying sizes scattered across one of the main parks in Jelgava. It is one of the largest ice sculpture festivals in the world. This year, the 9th International Ice Sculpture Festival opened just before dusk on Feb. 10th and lasted all weekend. The theme of this year's festival was "a modern ice age."

With the official festival over, the music and warm drinks are no longer available. However, the statues will remain on display in the park until they melt.

The entrance to the park is flanked by huge unlit snow sculptures, some as high as five meters. These towering snow sculptures include a giant caricature of Homer Simpson and an igloo large enough to crawl inside.
Further into the park, colored lights illuminate finely carved ice blocks. The ice captures the light in ways that make each statue seem to glow with a different color.

Sculptures range from penguins listening to MP3 players to objects truly abstract and undefinable.
Peering out from behind a tree in the center of the park, a life-like ice man plays with an ice child who seems on the verge of laughing, yelling, and running all at the same time. Nearby, an ice man wielding a large gun takes aim at an ice bird with carefully carved feathers.
Running along one edge of the park is a bar made totally of ice, which was manned by two or three flesh and blood bartenders during the festival. The bar features panels of finely carved ice blocks, with more detail than can be found in many of the more permanent establishments found in Jelgava and Riga.

The creator and inspiration behind the bar is Maxim Cnertov, a first time sculptor at the event. Cnertov originally arrived at the event to see the array of sculptures, but couldn't resist building a small snow sculpture of his own. When the organizers of the event saw his work, they invited him to participate in the festival.

"This is my first major project with ice. Previously I have worked mostly with sand and clay," Cnertov said.
Cnertov explained that while they mostly use chainsaws and chisels to form the ice, his experience with clay came in handy.
"I used clay molds to do the detailed work on the bar, most sculptors now use this sort of technology," he said.
Cnertov said that ice brought him new challenges in sculpting.
"With clay it is easy [to sculpt], but the ice is very difficult to mold."
Cnertov made two sculptures for the event, the ice bar and a three meter high woolly mammoth. "I wanted to try to make something modern, but also something [from the] ice age," Cnertov said.

They can be found in Duke Jacobs Square, near Jelgava Hotel, in the center of Jelgava 's about a 15 minute walk from the train station.