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Art Takes a Swine Dive

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MICHELANGELO HAD HIS MARBLE, Picasso his paints. Angela Follett has her Spam. You know the stuff—distinct pinkish hue, pliant enough to mold, firm enough to sculpt and, as any starving artist knows, it’s edible.

Follett, 27, a Seattle talent agency director, was just one of 85 entrants in this year’s Spam speed-carving competition, the centerpiece event in Seattle’s fourth annual Spam-O-Kama. The two-day festival raised $1,500 for a local food bank, but for Spam fans its goal is more cosmic: to expand the creative boundaries of ground ham, pork shoulder, salt, sugar, water and sodium nitrate. “Spam is not just a meat,” says architect Chris Appleford, 34, “it’s a medium.”

Follett, who won last year with a meaty rendition of “Spammy Wynette, Singing Stand By Your Spam,” tried mightily in the 15-minute, two-can carve-off but came up short against such works as “Spamtom of the Opera,” “Jean Claude Van Spam” and “Pearl Spam.” In the end, judges, including Northern Exposure’s John Corbett, crowned graphic designer Russ Leno, 40, for his abstract sculpture, “Going to Hell in a Spam Basket.”

High marks in the Spam Museum category, for more majestically sized sculptures, went to Seattle Four Seasons Olympic Hotel chef Kerry Sear. His entry: “Spamaugural Dinner,” a five-course (Spampagne and Spaviar included) fantasy meal for the President. The British-born Sear (“I used to cook for the Queen”) knows a thing or two about Spam. “My mum used to fry it up for breakfast,” he says. “That might be one of the reasons I’m a vegetarian.”

At contest’s end, leftovers were carted to the city zoo—proving, perhaps, that fans of canned meat can be found anywhere. Observed artist Helen Lessiek, 38: “Elvis ate Spam, you know. Probably still does.”