If you spot the public art piece at the Louisiana-Pearl station and think, "This would make an amazing necklace" -- then Ira Sherman's work is done. Sherman says he wanted to create a piece made for movement with intricate mechanics, a piece not just interesting to look at but to play with, too.
We caught up with Sherman to discuss mechanical art and how "Stang Machine" honors a dear friend of his.
Westword: Where are you from? Where do you reside now?
Ira Sherman: I was born in an aesthetically sterile neighborhood in Chicago. I relocated to Denver's beautiful but urban Platt Park neighborhood in 1972.
How did your collaboration with RTD come about?
I live one block from the Louisiana-Pearl street light rail station. I am passionate about creating kinetic objects in all metals. I have extensive experience as a jeweler, metalsmith and metal fabricator, and have always wanted to apply these skills to a public art project. When I heard that RTD was building a station in my neighborhood, I felt compelled to present a site-specific sculptural proposal for that station.
How did you come up with the idea for this piece?
I first set "rules" for myself that would keep me focused on a well thought-out design for the sculpture titled the "Stange Machine" (pronounced The STANG Machine).
1) The piece must not be whimsical (with one exception). I have been frustrated over the years viewing too much whimsical public art and felt our neighborhood deserved a sculpture that needed consideration on many aesthetic levels, i.e. concept, design, craftsmanship, engineering and interaction.
2) The sculpture must be kinetic and very durable.The whole purpose of the light rail system is to reliably MOVE people. My sculpture relates to the curvelinear forms of parts of the human body and integrates these forms into abstracted stainless steel wheels of locomotion.
3) The kinetic motion of the sculpture must come from individuals on the train platform interaction with the sculpture.What or who inspired this piece? And how?
I sat at a downtown Denver train station and watched the ebb and flow of people and machines moving. Bicycles, strollers, cars, skateboards, trains. Everything moves back and forth, loading and unloading. I used this concept to design large, stainless overhead wheels that repeat these back and forth motions.Years ago I was introduced to a gentleman named Ron Stange who introduced me to the amazing technologies used to bend tubing. I have used tube-bending technologies in my art ever since meeting Ron, and at the same time Ron became a great supporter of my art. Ron passed away before my RTD sculpture was completed and I wanted to make the sculpture in his memory.
When people are on their daily journey and walk past your work, what do you hope they are thinking and feeling?
I would like people to view my sculpture as an elegant gigantic piece of kinetic jewelry. Look at how the curvelinear lines of the sculpture draw your eye into the center of each overhead wheel. Each wheel uses actual components of the rail system. I used the cantenary wire, bracket clamps and actual overhead wire suspension clamps as design elements in the center of each wheel. The sculpture is set into motion by applying firm reciprocating rotational pressure to the stainless ball on the train platform. As the wheels turn, look up and watch the interaction of the design elements as they pass across each other. This beautiful interaction can be seen under each kinetic wheel.
I have one exception to my design rule: If a person carefully examines the upper design elements of the sculpture, they may discover a metalized "Furby" toy starring back at them. To understand what I mean, visit this page on my website.
How do you feel about public transportation?
What's not to like? Bring it on!
What is your favorite piece of public art?
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My tastes in public art and kinetic art often change with time. Currently my favorite artist is U-Ram Choe from Korea. To view more of Ira Sherman's art, visit his website.