Tom Otterness (American, b.1952) is a sculptor who created art for public locations, such as parks, libraries, courthouses, and museums. Although he was born and raised in Wichita, KS, Otterness began his career in art by studying at the Art Students League of New York in 1970. He also studied through the Independent Study Program associated with the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1973.
When the group of artists known as Collaborative Projects (Colab) was established in 1977, Otterness was a member. Otterness started to make an income from his work by selling plaster figures at Artists Space during the Christmas holiday in New York City in 1979. Following along these lines, he then went on to make small monuments and sell them at a Colab event in 1980, which was held in Time Square. Otterness created The Tables, and in 1987 they were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art's Projects.
The largest exhibit that Otterness participated in was Tom Otterness on Broadway in 2005. It featured 25 pieces set up between Columbus Circle and 168th Street in Washington Heights. Among the sponsors of the show were the Broadway Mall Association, City of New York Parks and Recreation Department, and Marlborough Gallery. The exhibition traveled to Beverly Hills, Grand Rapids, and Indianapolis. Among Otterness’s most notable works is the Life Underground, created in 2002 in New York City. The project included more than 100 sculptures made of cast bronze, which were placed throughout the New York City Subway system.
Some of Otterness’s works were controversial, such as the film he created in 1977 titled Shot Dog Film, in which he shot a dog that he had adopted specifically for the purpose of the film. In April of 2008, Otterness issued a public apology for this act, which was ultimately published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This same controversial film cost Otterness a US$750,000 contract with the City of San Francisco for artwork intended to be placed in the Central Subway project. The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.