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  • Five Walking Figures

    by Magdalena Abakanowicz

    Dedicated 2010


    On a grass covered earthen berm overlooking Crossroads Plaza at the center of Lewis and Clark’s campus stands a group of five figures, hollow shells wrapped in burlap and cast in bronze. The figures in "Five Walking Figures" by Magdalena Abakanowicz have close connections to a life living in a Communist regime which repressed individuality, creativity and intellect in favor of the collective interest.

    Magdalena Abakanowicz was born into an aristocratic Polish-Russian family on her parent’s estate in Poland. She was just a child at the start of WWII when Poland was attacked on the west by Germany and the east by the Soviet Union. 

    At age nine, she observed on a massive scale humanity stripped bare by the brutality of war. Reflected in her work of today, the haunting rows of unknown human beings are portrayed through groupings of amorphous body castings that appear to have stripped away the identity of the individual. Headless, these shells await passively; the life force lost to the inhumanity of a situation out of control. The anonymity of homeless refugees struggling to cope with arms, legs, feet wrapped in rags - anything for protection from the elements. 

    Haunting as these figures appear, the universal message is not despair but a call for constant vigilance and involvement. There are forces of power that when unattended make decisions, not for the greater good but for the benefit of a few. 

    Magdalena Abakanowicz has seen this life, she has lived this life, and she is compelled through her art to take a stand to defy this life.  More than anything she understands the importance of intellectual freedom and the need to be able to create art unencumbered by the policies of repression.  

    “Art will remain the most astonishing activity of 

    mankind, born out of struggle between wisdom and 

    madness, between dream and reality, in our mind.” 

    —Magdalena Abakanowicz 

    Internationally recognized for her figurative works, Magdalena Abakanowicz recently installed "Agora" - a large permanent project for Chicago Grant Park consisting of 106 cast iron figures, each about 9 feet tall. Inhabiting an entire city block, "Agora" is the largest figurative sculpture of our time. 

    The sculpture, "Five Walking Figures," was purchased by the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation.  

    Magdalena Abakanowicz is a Polish artist, born in 1930.