DIMENSIONS: 75′ 8″ high with a base of 22′ 9″ x 32′ 9″ x 21′ 2″
LOCATION: Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park
Mark di Suvero’s sculpture, Big Mo, is located in the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, close to the banks of the Missouri River. The Lewis and Clark trail runs along the Missouri River passing the River’s Edge Park. On August 3, 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition had an historic meeting with the native Otoe Indians at a place that Clark named Council Bluff in his journal writings. This was the first official meeting between Western Indians and representatives of the United States government. The present-day city of Council Bluffs was named for this site.
di Suvero’s sculpture is located on the Council Bluffs’ side of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge over the Missouri River. di Suvero says that his work has always responded to bridges. When he moved from China to the United States one of his first sights was the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, that he said was gorgeous. He saw it as a symbol of the country’s freedom. He also responded to the Brooklyn Bridge when he moved to New York City. He said, “Living in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge I was encouraged to think big.” Both bridges and di Suvero’s works are made of steel and di Suvero thinks steel creates a different sense of space through the kind of framed structures that it can create. He says, “bridges have the symbolic knowledge of being able to reach from one person to another, and from one side to another, that has always fascinated human beings.”
Mark di Suvero
Mark di Suvero is one of the most important American sculptors and is famous for being a pioneer in the use of steel as an art medium and the use of a crane as an artist’s tool. His large-scale sculptures can be seen in Europe, Australia, Canada, and all over the United States.
Marco Polo di Suvero was born in Shanghai, China, in 1933 to Italian parents. The family immigrated to San Francisco, California, in 1941 fleeing the political unrest caused by World War II. While earning his degree in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, di Suvero wrote poetry, studied sculpture, and explored other fields like mathematics and science. When he decided to become a professional sculptor he moved to New York City which was the center of the American art world. In his early sculptures he used wooden timbers from demolished buildings, tires, scrap metal and structural steel.
While working for a cabinetmaker di Suvero was critically injured in an elevator accident that crushed him and trapped him for an hour. After months in the hospital he was confined to a wheelchair, but began to sculpt again and learned to use an arc welder. Although doctors told him he would never walk again, he trained himself to walk with crutches. While spending a year in a rehabilitation hospital he taught art to the other patients. He says that the sharing of art with others was a “springboard for the spirit” and became a goal for his artistic practice. During this period of his life he began to use a crane to shape heavy steel girders into monumental sculpture. Despite his physical setbacks, di Suvero has remained a very hands-on sculptor cutting and welding the steel and other metals for his sculptures and who works with only a few assistants.
di Suvero has had a generous lifetime commitment to peace activism, social justice, and mentoring young artists. He co-founded an artists’ cooperative gallery in New York City and set up a foundation to help artists realize their visions. In 1986 a group of artists under the leadership of di Suvero founded the Socrates Sculpture Park in New York City on an abandoned riverside landfill. Now it is an internationally-known outdoor museum, a space for artists’ studios, and a city park. In France he turned a riverboat into La Vie de Formes (The Life of Forms), where artists from all over the world could come to create.
His contributions to art and the world have been recognized with awards from prestigious organizations like the International Sculpture Center, the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, the Heinz Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2011, di Suvero received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. This award is given to individuals or groups who “…are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.”