By Serena Solomon
CHELSEA - Is he jumping off the roof or dancing on the ledge?
Whichever it is, "Falling Man" has baffled and intrigued Chelsea residents for the past 12 months. The artwork leans over the street from the Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street and is the handywork of Washington, D.C., neon artist, Craig Kraft.
"He wanted to distinguish the building with something that represented us," said Nancy Manocherian, the founding artistic director of the theater and a friend of Kraft's.
Manocherian described the Cell Theatre as a modern day salon that leans away from mainstream performances. Instead, it showcases emerging young artists or older artists who are underrepresented.
The life-sized sculpture, which was created in 1995, is a negative cast, which curves inwards. At night neon lights placed inside the cast illuminate the piece. His holographic eyes appear to follow those who walk past it, Manocherian said.
Before he found his permanent home on the Cell Theatre's building, Falling Man traveled the world and was displayed in Puerto Rico, Mexico and South Korea.
David Glading said he walks past Falling Man on his way to work each day, but Wednesday was the first time he stopped to take a closer look.
"I thought he was climbing," Glading said, tilting his head the other way. "But maybe he is dancing on the ledge."
The model for the sculpture was a dancing man, according to Manocherian. She believes Falling Man represents "an artist taking a leap into the unknown."
However, Kathy, a Chelsea artist, has a much stronger opinion. She said Falling Man brought up memories of September 11 when people were forced to jump from the burning World Trade Center.
"It is too fresh a memory in the minds of New Yorkers," she said. "I know that this was never anticipated by the artist."
Kathy called the sculpture ambiguous and pondered what its meaning would be if it appeared in the context of another city like Toronto or London.
"What is good about this is it makes people wonder what it means," she said.