Under Sky/One Family, Mark di Suvero, 1980
Illustration by Precious Blake
In 1977, when he recieved a commission to create a large, site-specific sculpture for Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Mark di Suvero was considered one of the nation’s leading sculptors. Baltimore had applied for and was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts based solely on the location at the harbor’s edge between the World Trade Center and the National Aquarium. Di Suvero was chosen soon thereafter, and the NEA grant was confirmed. The sculpture was dedicated in May 1980 by Mrs. Joan Mondale, the wife of Vice President Walter Mondale and a passionate supporter of the arts, with Mark di Suvero’s participation.
All the early designs for di Suvero’s Baltimore piece, as well as the model of the piece, involved movement. The sixteen early designs on deposit at the Baltimore Museum of Art do not document how Under Sky/One Family developed into a stationary piece.
The title of the piece was taken from a Chinese saying di Suvero remembered from his childhood, but it also makes reference to Martin Luther King’s belief in “one people, living together, working together, playing together,” ideas he hoped his sculpture might also evoke.
Other references in the work are to Baltimore’s history as a maritime and steel center. The vertical steel elements and his dramatic arangement of them conjure up the mast of the ship, and his inclusion of an actual propeller from a large ship, meant for children’s play here, underscores Baltimore’s seafaring history. In 1980 the sculpture was beautifully sited on an open, grassy knoll that was clearly visible from Pratt Street.
In 1975, di Suvero had been the first living artist to have his work shown in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. That same year he was given an exhibition at The Whitney Museum, in New York City, and his monumentally scaled sculptures were sited across the New York metropolitan area.
Today he has studios in Long Island City, in Petaluma, California, and in Chalon-sure- Saaone, France. His distinctive scultures can be found in museums and outdoor seettings across the country and around the world. His work can be found here.
Want to know more about Baltimore Public Art? Pick up the book Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City by Cindy Kelly.