Mark di Suvero: Drawings in the Sky

A feisty man with a wide-brimmed hat breezed into my office one day in 1978 at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. He walked with a cane while playing a harmonica to my staff’s delight. That is how I first met Mark di Suvero, the sculptor whose work will be on view at the Katonah Museum of Art (KMA) for a year starting on October 23.

Supporting artists is what Mark di Suvero does. So it was predictable that our paths would cross again, as they did some years later in Queens, where di Suvero had a studio on the East River waterfront, located on a dismal stretch of industrial Astoria. At the time, Astoria Boulevard was a no-man’s land with obsolete industrial factories, trash-filled lots and a vacant piano factory. Adjacent to di Suvero’s studio, with its heavy-duty powered machinery, was some city-owned property that, in September of 1986, began a new life as Socrates Sculpture Park. Some 1000 artists have shown their work there since, a cause for celebration at the 30th anniversary of this organization, a not-for-profit that di Suvero has sheparded into a cultural destination.

To me, it seems hard to believe that more than 30 years have passed since the sculpture park was just a glimmer of a thought and Mark di Suvero and I trekked across Astoria Boulevard to share this idea with Isamu Noguchi, whose studio incredibly was diagonally across the road from di Suvero’s. I think we were both in awe as we sipped tea with this legendary artist, surrounded by his monumental work, hoping to get his “nod.” Noguchi’s studio is now the Noguchi Museum, another cultural destination in this unlikely corner of Queens.

Mark di Suvero is one of the most influential sculptors of our time.  His mammoth works in wood, steel, rubber tires and other industrial materials  are akin to drawings in the sky.

“This installation embodies our effort to activate our outdoor campus with dynamic and surprising works of art,’ said Darsie Alexander,  KMA’s Executive Director. Kudos to the Katonah Museum of Art for bringing di Suvero’s work to Westchester, building upon the county’s status as a place for public art.

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