Angelic Firefighter Ice Sculpture Drawing Lots of Attention
She has warmed hearts across the continent although she's made of ice, leaning tenderly on the shoulder of an exhausted New York firefighter who is holding a U.S. flag, It's all part of an ice sculpture created to pay tribute to the courage of emergency workers in New York on Sept. 11.
Since images of Darlene Racicot's entry in the South Porcupine-Porcupine Winter Carnival ice sculpture contest were posted on the City of Timmins municipal Web site, The Daily Press has received a flood of e-mails from across the continent requesting information, including how to contact and thank Racicot for her thoughtful and moving artistry.
J. Meehl of Lexington, Mass., was sent the picture by a friend.
"Is there a link to this picture so I can see it again?," she wrote. "I want to pass on to (the artist) my thanks and appreciation for such a work of beauty and compassion."
The desire to thank Racicot motivated many to work hard at backtracking the image.
"I was so taken by the photo I kept following the messages back and finally found a sender with a title on the photo," wrote Catherine Gardner. "I am a prosecutor in Monterey County, Cal., and several of my colleagues are curious."
"I am in awe!" wrote Jane St. Germain of Cochrane. "I have never seen anything so beautiful! I help run a fun list and we would like to feature the picture and give credit to the artist."
Similar efforts by other admirers seem destined to spread the image to millions of people.
St. Germain received an e-mail from a friend Helen, an American who "helps run a few fun lists as well as a message/chat site Hawkwing in delphi forums.
"Darlene's sculpture's gonna be shown all over the U.S. etc., along with her name. She may not realize this but her sculpture is something really special to the American people."
Helen writes, "It's OK if it melts, her work will be out there forever. I'll have Hawk put it up and share it with Trev so it will cover five to six countries. I sent it to my friend who is a fire chief in New York."
An e-mail from Steve Couture, sheds light on how the image has already travelled so far, so fast.
He wanted more information after receiving the picture in an e-mail reading, "I am from Timmins Ont. This is an ice sculpture my friend created for the winter carnival (as she does) every year -- do you wonder why? Please pass on to anyone who may be interested. It is a must see!"
Amy Colella Lithographic Services of Daytona Beach, agrees, giving this professional stamp of approval. "I am working on a fund raising project involving photography with a patriotic theme. Is there a possibility of being able to use it in our project?"
Susan Blanch of news information radio station WCCO in Minneapolis, Minnesota, covering "the five state area," received the image in an e-mail from a friend.
She called the Daily Press, Thursday, in order to contact the sculptor, Racicot, for an interview.
"I was blown away, not only for the meaning behind it because of what happened Sept. 11, but because it was a true piece of art," said Blanch, a producer. "It sends emotion through you just like art is supposed to do.
"I thought it was a really powerful, beautiful piece. It was enough to see the firefighter, then after looking again and seeing the angel, I thought 'Wow!' Just the detail on the angel alone was incredible."
When her friend e-mailed Blanch the web site on the East End carnival in response to her aroused curiosity, Blanch was "really shocked" to find it was an amateur competition.
Before that she'd even wondered if it "had been commissioned (paid for) -- who knew?"
That's high praise indeed, as Minneapolis has a long tradition of winter carnivals and ice sculpture contests which are open to all, but "entered by a lot of artists," Blanch said.
The fame and viewership of the sculpture is poised to grow exponentially with Blanch's coverage.
Some people won't be content with virtual viewing.
"If this is the kind of work these artists do, I may have to make a trip to Timmins!," wrote Melinda Hogue, Manhattan, Kansas. "WOW! Great stuff."
How did the artist responsible for such an outpouring of appreciation get her inspiration? It started as it has grown, with an e-mailed image from a friend, a photo of an actual New York fire fighter at ground zero, with an angel digitally added, said Racicot.
"It was so touching -- it really moved me when I saw the picture. I thought maybe it would have the same impact on people if I did it three dimensionally"
She hoped to touch others as, "my husband and I felt really helpless when (Sept. 11) happened.
"We gave blood and donated to a fund, but being this far away what can you do? You wanted to do so much to help, but you can't. This is my way of giving back a little bit, letting them know we're thinking about them here."
The sculpture made a great impression locally as well.
"I've had phone calls like you wouldn't believe, people bringing me things like gift certificates and baking. Everybody who came here to look at it knocked on my door to say how moved and touched they were.
"I was overwhelmed -- I really didn't think it was going to have that much of an impact. I was happy it did, but it was unbelievable."
Ironically, Racicot, who had won first place for a number of years, had thought she'd sit this year's competition out, to allow others their place in the sun. When she saw the picture, she was so moved she felt she had to act on it.
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