An ice sculptor from Alaska carves out a niche in LIC

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Image source: Fabio Penna on Flickr

The freezing temperatures have hit us solidly this week, so we thought it was a good time to highlight the work of a local artist who makes his living based on ice. Shintaro Okamoto of Okamoto Studio, an LIC/Astoria-based ice sculpting business, was recently profiled by “Astoria Characters” author Nancy Ruhling, and we thought his story was fascinating.

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Image source: Sarah_Ackerman on Flickr

Okamoto is originally from Japan, but spent half of his childhood in Alaska. His father, Takeo, first learned the art of ice sculpting as part of his training as a sushi chef. Meanwhile, Shintaro was a budding artist who impressed teachers and fellow students with his drawings of animals. He started working for a surgeon as an illustrator, so that the doctor could explain procedures visually. He and his father went on to enter and win various ice sculpture competitions. Shintaro attended Brown University, where he was pre-med but majored in fine arts – joining his two interests in art and the inner workings of the human body.

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Image source: JessyeAnne on Flickr

Eventually ending up in NYC, Shintaro and Takeo (who has since passed away) opened up Okamoto Studio in 2004. The studio has since created ice sculptures for big clients like Nike, the Food Network, MoMA and Condé Nast; and high-profile events such as Fashion Week and film premieres, as well as personal events like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. They have also carved and constructed ice sculptures for public art installations: for example, a 10-foot ice-block heart was erected in Times Square around Valentine’s Day in 2010.

The studio, on 31st Street between LIC and Astoria (GMAP), has a walk-in freezer, but that’s not where the carving happens. With chainsaws, chisels and other tools, Okamoto has to work quickly and accurately before the material melts too much. And it’s this fleeting nature of ice sculpting that makes it so appealing and impressive – besides the fact that it’s an art form that thrives and brings us delight in otherwise cringe-worthy weather.

Astoria Characters: The Ice Sculptor [Huffington Post]