Steven Feren has been creating sculpture for public places since 1980. He spoke to us recently about the miracles that inspire him and how his work informs the experiences of a community.
What’s the best thing about creating artwork on commission?
The best thing about commission work is that each project presents new and different opportunities for exploring the use of different media and problem-solving. I find a certain freedom in some established boundaries, but I like the cultivation of knowledge that comes about as a result of learning about the application of new materials and how I can use them in the exploration of form. I also appreciate the opportunity that commission work or public work gives me to enter into a dialogue with the community and finding a role as an artist in the culture and community I’m working in. Many people will experience the work: some will love it and some may not. Whatever the response, the work becomes part of the fabric of people’s own experience in their community, and I like being part of the development of that experience.
Inspiration comes from many sources, but primarily from my continuing surprise at the miracle of existence. One of my first memories as a kid was being in a dark room, watching sunlight come through a crack in the window and seeing the dust that was in the air. In every other place that the sun did not penetrate, you couldn’t see the dust. This light was showing me something that was all around, but not visible without the illumination of light.
I look for my work to confirm and connect with the magic of life’s unfolding. Through my work, I try to reconfirm my faith in the creative experience, which I think is fundamental for us all in the human experience.
I find it inspirational that human beings—regardless of their creative outlets— are in the process of this continual creative process. A host of artists and creative individuals of all types and media have inspired me. The list of inspirational touchstones for me is always evolving. A few are Dekooning, Guston, Kiefer, Kapoor, Bacon, Hundertwasser, Pieter Brugel, Brancusi, Ed Kienholz, Rocky Calovito, Miro , Diego Rivera, Dick Gregory, Kurt Elling, Cocteau, Kafka, Dostoevsky , Jim Brown, Chagall, Leon Golub, and Gaudi. I’m inspired by outsider art and topiary. People in my family and in my life have inspired me too, including Hal Feren, Zora, Charity, and the many students I’ve had over the years.
Tell us about a commission you’re working on now.
I am currently in the planning stage for a public project in Beijing, China. I will be traveling to China in February to begin work in a glass factory there.
I will be working on a glass sculpture to be placed outdoors on the campus of a university in Beijing. It will be made up of 14 glass pieces, all standing approximately 3.5 meters tall and should be installed in May, 2014.