Biography of Artist & Designer Ira Sherman

Ira Sherman has been exploring the boundaries of metal fabrication and design since the early 1970s, both as a highly successful custom goldsmith and jeweler and as an internationally recognized sculptor. His sculptural work uses materials and shapes from science and technology yet "bioengineered" to interact with the audience or viewer in a uniquely human way. Many of Sherman's pieces are, in fact, "prostheses" created around a humorous social concept. These are worn on the body and may be shockingly intimate. Many of Sherman's sculptures have sensors that let them interact with the participant or the audience. Parts of his current traveling exhibitions, "Panaceas to Persistent Problems" and "Impenetrable Devices," have been displayed in exhibitions in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Israel, and Japan; the Spertus Museum, the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, the Regional Transportation District of Denver Public Art Collection and the National Ornamental Metal Museum have acquired Sherman artwork for their permanent collections. Read more about Ira Sherman.

Recognizing the fascination his complex creations hold for the mechanically minded, the computer-driven, sci-fi buffs, and sculpture-lovers of the far-out, Wired magazine included a feature on Sherman in the March 1995 issue, labeling his sculptures as "appliance technology." Techno art curator Laura McGough defines Sherman's sculpture as a "Performing Prosthetic Aesthetic.....a cyborg body performance." Popular Mechanics Magazine calls Sherman's art the "Ultimate Interactive Sculpture."

Sherman is a founding Chairperson of the Colorado Metalsmithing Association and is a 20-year member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. He has helped develop programs for non-profit art organizations as well as religious, educational, and community organizations.

- Charlie Lewis, CA Art Critic

Sherman's childhood might be cautiously labeled happy if it were not for his childhood obsession with the holocaust. His Jewish father fought the Germans in WWII and was severely injured from land mine explosions. .(his rescuers also stepping on land mines) .... "watching the recovery of my father left lasting fears and apprehensions of war, and my identity as a Jew was burdened with a strong fear and infatuation with the holocaust, especially the medical experiments and mechanized methodical techniques the Germans used to experiment, dominate and destroy the Jewish culture of Europe."

Sherman was raised in a Jewish neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. Many of his neighbors were Holocaust survivors. While some individuals were extremely bitter from their experience, other more observant Jewish survivors seemed to cherish life, often attributing their survival as a witness to Hitler's failed attempt to destroy the Jewish people. "I could not understand this feeling and side with the fearful, bitter individuals...... If you are a Jew, the Germans, or the world for that matter, wanted to kill you. This persistent fear ruined my childhood and severed my connection to Judaism. As a young adult, Ira replaced his Jewish identity with that of an artist willing to explore darker and more disturbing emotional content in his work. Sherman sought to reconnect with his Jewish identity but still allowed his edgy artistic expressions. Sherman's work all at once began to express beauty, anger, violence, and redemption. He chose to compartmentalize his metalsmithing skills to simultaneously create stunning precious jewelry and institutional Judaica.

Ira's grandfather, a Russian immigrant escaping the dangers of the Russian pogroms, started the family's used machinery business located in a downtown Chicago industrial area. Ira spent many childhood hours examining and "playing" with the powerful metal fabrication equipment, absorbing the function and mechanical aesthetic of each type of machine.

The grimy public transportation trip from the Sherman's Chicago's north side four flats to his father's business was grim and almost void of any pleasant aesthetic. "At an early age, I found myself wanting to manipulate mechanical architectural lines into beautiful, lyrical forms. At first as drawings and sketches and later as found object sculpture. The almost universal acceptance of impressionistic and abstract art in post-war America gave me the freedom to let my mind explore any direction, concept, or morality in my art and design." This artistic exploration started at a very young age but really did not appear in any of Sherman's art objects until the early 70s when Ira was introduced to formal metalsmithing techniques that allowed him to master metal as an expressive medium. The anything-goes attitude of the 60s further challenged Sherman to take on concepts and techniques that are rarely melded into physical art objects.

As an asthmatic, nervous, and allergic child, Ira spent many hours at the doctor for weekly allergy shots, fluoroscope exams for stomach problems, and yearly booster shots. "Some of my doctors were chain-smoking quacks. I began to associate the instruments of their medical profession with the instruments used by the Nazis to experiment and torture the Jews."

Sherman began to blend the inspirations and aesthetics of his father's metal fabrication machines, his doctor's medical instruments, and prosthetic legs worn by his wounded father into a new collection of sculptures he titled "Panaceas to Persistent Problems and Impenetrable Devices."

Each of Sherman's prosthetic devices is designed to be stunningly beautiful, technically ingenious, culturally challenging, and intimately attached to human experience. Early conceptual sculptures gave way to plausible machines that regulate aggressive, sexual, and antisocial behaviors but use a lovely aesthetic to counter an ugly temperament.