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Artist Okimoto had ‘personal integrity’


In the art world, there is perhaps nothing nobler than the artist who creates art for art’s sake. Tom Okimoto was clearly of that breed.

"All I can do is paint," he told writer Marie M. Hara in a Spring 1999 article in the journal Bamboo Ridge.

Okimoto died Thursday at his home at Kahala Nui. He was 82.

The Honolulu-born Okimoto spent more than 20 years as an occupational art therapist at the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, retiring in 1985. All the while and in the years since, he quietly, solitarily and devotedly continued to produce artwork.

"He had a personal integrity about him," said Wayne Kawamoto, who worked on last year’s "Commitment to Excellence" exhibition for the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce. The annual show honors one artist each year, and Okimoto was chosen for 2010.

"He didn’t promote himself, so he wasn’t as well-known as some of his contemporaries. There was an honorableness about him," Kawamoto said.

Okimoto’s contemporaries are hefty company indeed, including Tadashi Sato, Bumpei Akaji, Harry Tsuchidana and Satoru Abe.

Like these men, his work, primarily abstract paintings, was collected by major Hawaii art institutions, including the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and The Contemporary Museum.

Okimoto was also a "keeper of history," said Koa Gallery director David Behlke. "He was at the forefront of gathering oral histories of local artists like Isami Doi and Keichi Kimura."

Okimoto is survived by his wife, Mildred, and his granddaughter, Chelsea Manfredi.

Services will be held June 6 at Diamond Head Mortuary chapel. Visitation is 5 p.m. with the service at 6 p.m.

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