Sculptor Obie Simonis was raised in the Blue Mountain region of Eastern Oregon. After high school graduation, Obie moved to Portland, Oregon and enrolled at Portland State University where he studied sculpture under Frederick Littman and James Hansen.  Littman trained under Maillol in the French Romantic tradition of bronze figurative work,  and Hansen was a modernist of figurative abstraction with traces of native northwest Indian culture in his symbolism.

In 1973, Obie moved to Eugene, Oregon to study visual art and philosophy.  Track and field was also a major part of Obie’s life at this time.  As a sophomore, Obie broke the all-time record for javelin throwing at Portland State University. The University of Oregon had the best track and field program in the United States with Bill Bowerman, the Olympic coach, as head coach.  Bowerman supported Obie’s move to the University to be a part of the team. 

Fine art and philosophy were the primary academic concentrations that Obie pursued at U of O.  John Wisdom of Cambridge University fame was a visiting philosophy professor during this period and was a great inspiration to Obie.  The philosophical studies were centered on the British Analytic School, focusing primarily on Wisdom and Wittgenstein. 

John Chamberlain was working on some major public sculpture at the University of Oregon for the International Sculpture Symposium and asked Obie to be his assistant. 

Obie received a five year professional fine art degree (BFA) from the University of Oregon’s Architecture and Allied Arts department. On completion of the degree Obie returned to Portland, OR.

Lewis and Clark College in Portland hired Obie to be an artist-in-residence to create an outdoor sculpture in 1978-9 for the college’s new Science Complex. The sculpture is sited at the entrance of the Olin Science Center.

The Neill gallery in Soho NYC gave Obie his first solo exhibition in 1979.  Obie was the youngest artist showing with the gallery.  In 1980 the Foster/White gallery of Seattle mounted a solo exhibition of Obie’s sculpture and paintings. At this point Obie’s career was off and running.  Several public art commissions in the Northwest were won and exhibitions were mounted from Seattle to Philadelphia and NYC. 

Jacqueline Cohen and Obie Simonis were married and moved to Cambridge, MA where Jacqueline completed her Doctorate at Harvard University, and became an Associate Dean at MIT.  Obie set up shop in a warehouse in Charlestown, MA where he completed sculptures for the University of Southern Oregon and the University of Alaska.  After the completion of these large works, Obie moved his studio to the Fort Point Artists District in Boston and shared a loft building with several other artists.

John Portman and Associates was developing a large architectural project in the Republic of Singapore and commissioned Obie to create a new work, ”Metamorphosis”, for the project.  The last project Obie completed while in the Fort Point Studio was the sculpture located in San Francisco at the Daniel Burnham Court high rise complex in the city center.

Artists were being driven out of their studios by the new wave of gentrification that was hitting real estate in Boston.  An activist group of artist got together to develop, own and control  their live/work studio space.  Brickbottom Artists Community was created from a large complex of turn-of-the-century warehouses providing over one hundred fifty studios.  Obie was one of the principal founders and President of the artists group.  Brickbottom was the largest artist-owned and developed loft complex in the nation. 

Gallery K in Washington DC was one of Obie’s primary galleries during the 90’s. Exhibitions were also mounted in Florida, Boston, and NYC.   Liberty Property Trust, a Philadelphia developer, commissioned a monumental exterior sculpture  in 1999 for the campus site of the financial group Vanguard.

        Wall sculpture has taken a more prominent role in the Simonis studio in the last few years. Many private and public works have been created and installed.  These dynamic and colorful works, composed of stainless steel. acrylic, and laminates, have been sited in prominent locations such as the Hancock Tower and 53 State Street of Boston.

    In 2003 Vuzi Maduna and Obie collaborated on an exterior public wall sculpture for the City of Boston  located at the Dudley Square Public Library.  Maduna and Simonis worked on additional public designs during this period.

    Howard Elkus of Elkus Manfredi Architects Ltd commissioned Obie in 2005 to create a monumental interior sculpture for their new high rise in Boston.  This is a magnificent lobby sculpture that can be seen at 33 Arch Street, in the heart of Boston’s Financial District.

    In 2008-9 the Central Square Theater of Cambridge commissioned Simonis to design and fabricate a unique stainless steel sculpture/gateway and marquee for their new theater.  The 450 Massachusetts Ave site is a part of MIT’s properties. Collaborating with MIT, the theater often addresses the intersection of science, technology and humanity.  With its biomorphic and geometric columns, Simonis’s gateway sculpture bridges these themes.  Compositions balancing curvilinear and angular forms are at the core of Simonis’s work.








Biography