Tom Otterness was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1952. He studied at the Art Students League of New York in 1970, and at the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1973. He was an active member of the artist's group Colab, a group of politically-engaged artists working in a variety of media.

Today, many of Otternesss's public works can be found in parks, plazas, subway stations, libraries, courthouses, and museums throughout New York City, including a parade of his sculptures in Battery Park City, and his installation of over 100 cast bronze sculptures placed through the platforms and stairways of the 14th Street station of the New York City subway.

Otterness has exhibited this work across the United States and around the world, including New York City, Beverly Hills, Grand Rapids, The Hague, Munich, Paris, and Venice. His commissions include the Los Angeles Federal Court Plaza; the State Library in Münster, Germany; and the Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, The Netherlands.