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The gallery will be closed for the summer.

Please visit the sculpture collection.

  • Magdalena Abakanowicz's sculpture Manus. Full description in body text.
  • Magdalena Abakanowicz's sculpture Manus. Full description in body text.


Magdalena Abakanowicz
Bronze with beeswax. 15' h.
Photo Credit: 
Jesse Sturgis



Walk along the sculpture with Google Street View


A deeply rooted respect for and close observation of nature have always been reflected in Magdalena Abakanowicz's preference for materials and themes. As part of the "Hand-like Trees" series begun in the nineties. Abakanowicz's sculpture "represents a metaphoric bridge between a form of nature and a human form." The artist chose the site at the south end of campus because she felt her work would link the natural beauty of the area, such as the trees of Sehome Hill, with the human activity of the campus.

Similar to di Suvero, Abakanowicz has utilized both the image and the metaphor of the hand to respond to cultural conditions. In her work for Western, the separate elements of tree trunks, human bodies, bark, skin, heads, and fingers come together in Manus (1994). To understand the origin of this work, it is important to first look at an earlier fiber sculpture, Hand (1976). Here, with its thumb tucked into the palm and likewise with the remaining fingers curled inward, this body part resembles the brain. While she can speak scientifically about the brain's divisions and its functions, she is more interested in connecting its structure to the art process. At times she acknowledges the conflict between these centers: physiological functions working with both instinctive and conscious behavior result in wisdom and madness, dream and reality. In other cases, she welcomes the intricacy of biological systems, including those of the body. Similar to a scientist, she involves herself in constant observation of natural phenomena.

Funding provided by

Western Washington University in partnership with one-half of one percent for art law, Art in Public Places Program, Washington State Arts Commission.

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