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Tom Friedman

Looking Up


The popular “Looking Up” sculpture along the Council Bluffs Riverfront, which serves as a unique photo backdrop for residents and visitors alike, landed at the Riverfront in April of 2021. This version is taller than the original 33.3 foot version that graced the space for two years prior before being purchased for a private collection.

Both were cast from maquettes fashioned out of aluminum roasting pans, tin foil and takeaway containers. Other iterations of ‘Looking Up’ sculptures have had stints at the entrance of Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens in New York, and on South Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

“Public art not only serves to beautify our green spaces, but it also provides visitors and residents with even more access to cultural opportunities in our parks.” said Mayor Matt Walsh.

No taxpayer dollars were used to fund either “Looking Up” sculpture.  Pottawattamie Arts, Culture, and Entertainment (PACE), an Iowa West Foundation initiative, helped bring the original version to River’s Edge in May of 2019.

The polished stainless steel piece is quasi-human figure gazing up to the sky, inviting others to stand at its base and do the same. To learn more about Friedman’s inspiration, the fabrication process and more, download the free Otocast art app.


Celebrated for his playful and exacting approach to art making, Tom Friedman embraces everyday life by looking afresh at familiar objects and their assigned function.

Tom Friedman was born in 1965 in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA. He lives and works in Massachusetts.

Fluctuating between the comical and conceptual, Friedman’s meticulously rendered drawings and sculptures recreate random elements from his daily life and surroundings. Confounding expectations through startling trompe l’oeil, Friedman’s works reveal his remarkable attention to detail and handicraft. What might first appear to be a simple, stable structure is, on closer inspection, intricately constructed from unexpected materials.

Inhabiting the boundary between reality and illusion, Friedman’s playful works challenge everyday processes of perception and notions of artistic value. He explains, “Art, for me, is a context to slow the viewer’s experience from their everyday life in order to think about things they haven’t thought about. Or to think in a new way.”

Friedman has developed an extensive portfolio of public works centered on a series of whimsical stainless-steel sculptures like Looking Up. Editions are permanently situated at the Contemporary Austin, Texas and St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium, Missouri. ‘Hazmat Love’, which portrays two wrestling figures clad in this unusual protective armor, was installed at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut in 2019. ‘Takeaway’, a running figure with a towering stack of aluminum containers balanced atop its head, went on display at Beverly Gardens Park, Los Angeles in 2018. Friedman’s ‘Circle Dance’ was installed in at Brown University Campus in 2012.

His works are included in prominent collections internationally, including Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and internationally all throughout the world.

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