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Erik Cantine, Dedicated To His Vision

By Jennifer Sabini Evans

Traditionally, holidays are seen as a time for joyous celebration. People enjoy reuniting with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and celebrating family and religious traditions. However, people with cancer and their loved ones may feel “out of step” from the rest of the world during the holidays. In fact, the holiday season can raise new questions, such as: How do I manage the holiday rush and my own needs at the same time? How can I celebrate when I have so many other things on my mind? What will my life be like next year?

Being able to communicate these genuine concerns to those you love and who love you can help you feel more connected. And this year, Erik Cantine, subtly reminded us all that “No One Fights Alone” – Cantine Strong, on his latest live carving at Ice Ice Berlin.

Erik Cantine - Ice Ice Berlin 2021
Live Ice Carving Masterpiece by Erik Cantine – No One Fights Alone – Cantine Strong
Erica Rusek/Contributor

Art is an incredibly powerful tool that, to borrow a phrase from writer Thomas Merton, “enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” As a result, we are able to express ourselves honestly when words cannot adequately convey our thoughts or when the gravity of a situation is too big, too scary, or too difficult to say out loud.

But when equipped with a pen, a brush or in this instance, a chainsaw and a chisel, Erik Cantine has the ability to create beauty in the most unassuming of places.

Erik Cantine - Ice Angel 2016
2016 Ice Angle Ice Carving in Berlin, MD
Erik Cantine/Contributor

Most of us give little thought to ice. It’s frozen water and that is all it is. For most of us it keeps our orange crushes cold in the summertime and creates anxiety to drive on it in the winter. But for those who enjoy turning blocks of ice into artistic creations, ice is a necessary part of their craft.

Erik Cantine has spent over 30 years creating, organizing and competing in winter festivals and ice carving competitions around the world. His intricate carvings are truly extraordinary. They make you stop and savor the present moment because once temperatures climb, the ice sculptures go by the way of Frosty, reminding us that everything in life is temporary.

Temporary Art Medium

Can you imagine dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to producing the most beautiful, exquisite art you’re capable of while knowing it would soon disappear?
For Cantine, the ice has a unique appeal for him. “I love the medium in its temporary aspect. It allows for a lot of creativity, problem solving, and you’re not stuck with something in the corner of your house for the rest of your life,” Cantine said with a chuckle.

He loves that his creations are constantly changing. “From the moment you pull out the block of ice, to the moment you carve out a large chunk and all the way to when it melts and returns to the earth, the whole process is breath-taking,” Cantine says.

Ice Ice Berlin 2021

And this year was no exception, despite being diagnosed with Glioblastoma (grade IV) only 4.5 months earlier. Many thought this would be the end to ice carvings in Berlin. But for Erik, when he was most vulnerable, life appeared bigger than him. It was during this time he experienced a greater appreciation and depth for his life. Instead of resisting to what is taking place, he decided to yield to it.

This marked the 7th year Erik performed live ice carving demonstrations for the town during their annual Berlin Christmas Tree Lighting event. Three ice sculptures were initially made in 2015, two pre-made and one live demo, but have now blossomed into 32 different ice sculptures of all shapes and sizes, creating a temporary outdoor art gallery in historic downtown Berlin!

“To turn a block of ice into something special and to see all the people smiling is fun. It’s the good memories that you keep in people’s minds, the pictures they take that make it fun,” said Cantine.

Erik Cantine - Kate Maloney
Erik Cantine & Kate Maloney at Ice Ice Berlin 2021
Jennifer Sabini Evans/OceanCity.com

This year’s ice sculpture’s catchphrase was “No One Fights Alone” – Cantine Strong, and Erik mentioned that the event wouldn’t have been possible without Kate Maloney and his friends and family members. “Kate has been extremely loving, caring and supportive. She has been here with me for all of my major appointments and treatments, helped orchestrate all fundraising efforts for me and my children and I cannot thank her enough for being by my side.”

Develop An Attitude Of Gratitude

The beautiful thing about life is we never know what is coming next. Everything can change in a blink of an eye, whether we like it or not, just like Cantine’s beautiful ice carvings. Like Erik, I want to continue to delight in what is here, in the now, in this very moment. I want to continue developing an attitude of gratitude for what is right in front of me.

“As I look at my ice carving photos from over the years, I am reminded that life is a collection of countless little moments spent with those you love. I have so much to be grateful for, ” said Cantine.

Ice Ice Berlin 2021
Images from Ice Ice Berlin 2021
Jennifer Sabini Evans/OceanCity.com
Upcoming Plans for Erik Cantine

Cantine continues carving, doing what makes him most happy, and sharing his passion with others. He’s always looking for new challenges and has decided to try his hand at woodcarving, using the chainsaw he is so familiar with. Both start with a block and use similar tools, so he finds it to be the smoothest transition. The wood he can leave in the front yard for days and look at, while the ice is more temperamental.  I’m looking forward to seeing Erik perform live wood carvings in the near future.

During this season of giving, I urge you all to not take for granted who you have or what you have in your life, as life is truly a gift. My hope is that you remember you are special, you deserve love, and you are stronger than most people. Take care of the part of you that feels “other” throughout the holiday season.  Like Erik, it is important for all of us to remember that we are not alone.

It was a true honor interviewing Erik for this article and chatting with Kate during the live carving. His love for his family, friends and community is heartwarming.

Cantine’s GoFundMe page.

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