News

Walking to the Sky art piece is more than just pole in ground

Jonothan Borofsky has more than one Walking to the Sky piece, but the one on Carnegie Mellon’s campus has been controversial since its implementation in May 2006. The piece has undergone many renovations recently. (credit: FIle Photo) Jonothan Borofsky has more than one Walking to the Sky piece, but the one on Carnegie Mellon’s campus has been controversial since its implementation in May 2006. The piece has undergone many renovations recently. (credit: FIle Photo) Jonothan Borofsky has more than one Walking to the Sky piece, but the one on Carnegie Mellon’s campus has been controversial since its implementation in May 2006. The piece has undergone many renovations recently. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor) Jonothan Borofsky has more than one Walking to the Sky piece, but the one on Carnegie Mellon’s campus has been controversial since its implementation in May 2006. The piece has undergone many renovations recently. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor)

The campus community has watched as Pittsburgh’s typical fall showers have delayed the progress of the reconstruction on Carnegie Mellon’s iconic art structure. Walking to the Sky was created by Carnegie Mellon alumnus Jonathan Borofsky, who earned his BFA in 1964.

The piece that has resided on the Cut since May 2006 is actually a copy of Borofsky’s Walking to the Sky, the first incarnation of which appeared in Rockefeller Center in New York City in 2004. It was moved to Dallas’s Nasher Sculpture Center in 2005, where photos of it were taken for Borofsky’s website. In 2008, another copy was installed in front of the Kiturami Homsys Company building in Seoul, South Korea, according to The Korea Times.

In an interview conducted by Carnegie Mellon Today in December 2006, Borofsky revealed that the first version was actually just one man walking upward, which he created for a 1991 exhibition in Kassel, Germany. “At the time,” he said, “I thought of the figure as pretty much representing myself, but also all of humanity.”

After creating a second version with one woman, he thought that the next version should include many people walking up toward the sky. When he was asked to craft a temporary sculpture in Rockefeller Center, he took the opportunity to create this work.

“When a sculpture like mine ends up at a particular public site, such as this one here at Carnegie Mellon,” Borofsky said in the same interview, “it is not my energy alone that has made this happen.... There have been many serious, knowledgeable, and well-intentioned people whose specific job it is to focus on what is best for Carnegie Mellon, now and into the future.”

Living in New York City, Jill Gansman, a trustee for Carnegie Mellon and an alumna from 1974, saw the sculpture in New York and commissioned Borofsky to make another as a gift to Carnegie Mellon.

“This is an inspiring work of art by one of our most acclaimed graduates,” said Jared L. Cohon, Carnegie Mellon’s president, in a news flash on Carnegie Mellon Today’s website. “We are delighted that it has come to our campus.”

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Borofsky went on to earn a master’s degree from Yale’s School of Art and Architecture. He then moved to New York, where he taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York until 1977, moving to the California Institute of the Arts until 1980.

He quickly became well-known in the arts world for his oversized sculptures, which became major features of many prominent European cities.

At the beginning of this semester, the 100-foot stainless steel pole was anchored to the ground by cables attached to large cement blocks. When the cables were removed later in the semester, the wind flexed the pole so that the top swayed several feet back and forth.

Every version of Walking to the Sky is set at a 75-degree angle pointing east. The new steel pole — which will be oriented in the same way — should be sturdier to prevent the bowing that worried much of the campus in recent weeks.

Aliesha Jones contributed to the reporting of this article.