Tom Otterness

Wildlife - Connell, Washington (c) pic by Hans Matschukat, work by Otterness
Wildlife – Connell, Washington (c) pic by Hans Matschukat, work by Otterness

Tom Otterness is an American sculptor born in Kansas in 1952. He is well known for shooting his dog when he was 25 just for the sake of filming the act for some video, the Shot Dog Film. Yes, you read that right. The dog incident, unlike the dog, is still very much alive more then thirty years later. Otterness issued an official apology for the dog video in 2007 but nobody will ever forget, surely not the animal rights activists who are always hanging around when he gets contracted for public installations. Because after the dog, years later, Otterness became famous with his funny public sculptures.

Immigrant Family, 2007 - Toronto, Canada (c) Tom
Immigrant Family, 2007 – Toronto, Canada (c) Tom Otterness

His sculptures are cute and look as if they’ve come right out of a cartoon! The subjects though are often political, involving capitalism, money and social inequality. I love the explanation on the making of the sculptures on his website. If you want to see a few installations in real life, there is a great choice of his sculptures in a fairytale theme in Scheveningen in the Hague, the statues are part of the “Beelden aan Zee” museum.  

Haring eater, 2004 - Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, NL (c) Tom
Haring eater, 2004 – Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, NL (c) Otterness
Leeuw, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, NL (c) Otterness, foto door Srsck
Leeuw, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, NL (c) werk door Otterness, foto door Srsck

Wandering about through the streets of New York would be a good option as well as you will find his work here and there, from playgrounds to museums and subways stations. There are also a few really neat ones in Rockefeller Park. The studio of Otterness is in Brooklyn.

Detail of a playground installation (c) pic by Kat Sterck, installation by Otterness
Detail of the playground installation (c) pic by Kat Sterck, installation by Otterness

Every sculpture is a story in itself and the work of Otterness is filled with small details that are easily overlooked. Take the time to watch the works more closely and you will keep discovering more and more details.

Subway New York City (c) Tom Otterness, pic by D. James Dee
Subway New York City (c) Tom Otterness, pic by D. James Dee

Want to see more? Check out the site of Tom Otterness.

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