The Quick Report

Forget Snowmen, This Iowa Artist Built a Snowshark

An eastern Iowa artist has garnered national attention after sculpting a massive “snow shark.” However, Iowa City artist Carlos Maldonado has discovered that his newfound spotlight is a double-edged sword.

Artist builds a massive “snow-shark”

On Tuesday, January 9, 2024, a snowstorm swept across Iowa. As of 8 PM, Iowa City had measured 15 inches of snow. Two days later, eastern Iowa artist Carlos Maldonado decided to make a sculpture out of snow. But he didn’t opt for a snowman.

On January 11, Maldonado decided to create a snow sculpture of a great white shark that looks like something a ride out of the movie Jaws. What Maldonado created was a life-size replica of the largest verified great white shark female at 20 feet in length. The shark also measures 5.5 feet in height, according to Maldonado’s Facebook post.

The shark’s mouth was around five and a half feet tall, but, it started to droop down after a couple of days, Maldonado told CBS2Iowa.

This “great white” isn’t all white, however. Maldonado also gave the shark realistic coloring, including coal-black eyes, “like a doll’s eyes.” It also has a set of ferocious, sharp-angled teeth, and blood-red gums and mouth.

Maldonado was asked about his inspiration in an interview with CBS Iowa.

“I looked up snow sculptures,” Maldonado said. “I didn’t really want to do anything plain. When I saw a shark online, I figured I could do that, so I gave it a shot and this is what we ended up with.”

Also recruited his two sons, Oscar and Gael, to assist him with the project. According to Maldonado, the shark took six hours to create and paint, the Daily Iowan reported.

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It took about 4 1/2 hours to sculpt the shark Maldonado says. The next day it took another hour and 1/2 to color it using water down acrylic paint.

Maldonado said his kids would like to sculpt an octopus or a banana split out of the next snowstorm.

Shark’s popularity becomes a double-edged sword

Carlos Maldonado’s “snow shark” turned into a winter attraction and Iowa City. Not only through circulating online, but Maldonado also shared its location on Facebook so locals could come by and view it. Iowa City is about 115 miles east of Des Moines.

Iowans have traveled in droves to see the shark. Media outlets have reported on the sculpture far and wide.

“My fiancé had seen this online on Facebook and we just thought it was a really good idea to bring our kids out to be able to see what creativity and what they can really do with snow”, said Iowa City resident Anastasia Morton. “It will be a very good memory for my kids.”

Many visitors and online commenters quote iconic lines from the movie Jaws as they remark on the terrifying great white shark sculpture. “We’re going to need a bigger boat!”

No word on what Maldonado’s neighbors think about the increased traffic in the neighborhood.

The only double-edged sword for Carlos Maldonado is the fame he is gaining as a snow sculptor, which is not his usual medium. He wants people to know he sells paintings too.

Maldonado’s journey to becoming an artist

Art started as a hobby for Maldonado in his teenage years. He scoffed when his high school art teacher suggested he pursue a full-time art career. Nonetheless, Maldonado attended the University of Iowa for a while but eventually dropped out, he told the Daily Iowan.

However, Maldonado found his way back to art. While working as a lab tech, he began creating art again and selling it online. He did pet portraits on commission and sold landscapes on the side. 

Eventually, art became a priority for Maldonado. He discovered plein air artwork in a book he found at a thrift store. 

Plein Air, more commonly known as the French expression “En plein air,” is simply the act of painting outdoors. The practice involves a landscape artist painting directly onto canvas in situ (in the original place) within the landscape. The idea is that it allows the artist to better capture changing details such as light and weather.

Maldonado recognized he had a weakness when it came to painting convincing landscapes. Inspired by painting from a still life, Maldonado joined the Iowa Plein Air Painters.

From there, Maldonado continued practicing and improving his skills. He became an established artist in 2019. Now, his work currently hangs in Catiri’s Art Oasis in Amana and Art Domestique in Washington, Iowa.

Maldonado’s current series features Iowa City’s downtown businesses at night. He says he hopes this work will inspire other artists to come downtown to paint Iowa City.

Still, Maldonado’s love is plein air.

“[I] like being able to see far distances,” Maldonado said. “The giant clouds in the summertime and the sifting cornfields.”

“It’s really beautiful here [in Iowa],” he continued, “and I think it’s something I didn’t notice when I was younger.”