This is the fifth in a series of short profiles on a remarkable group of professionals who came together at the Pilchuck Glass School in the summers of 2009 and 2010 under the Professional-Artist-in-Residence program and whose works in kilnformed glass will soon be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Northwest Art. Prior posts are here, here, here, and here.
Whether diplomat, novelist, actor or farm wife, talented people detour regularly and often passionately from the primary course of their lives. A few who come to mind include Churchill the painter, Nabokov the lepidopterist (I was reminded of this today), Jeff Goldblum the jazz pianist, and Anna Mary Robertson the artist (aka Grandma Moses).
Some venture into the visual arts as relief from the stress of their other occupations, others with the intent of redirecting their lives entirely.
I can’t think of many professions more needful of stress-relief than being a surgeon. Except maybe Head of State during a World War. Small wonder that Churchill comes to mind when I think of Dr Steve Immerman.
“My real job is to be worried to death,” Churchill famously said. It was also one of the reasons he gave for his commitment to oil painting, a passion briefly but beautifully documented in his short book “Painting as a Pastime”.
As much as Immerman’s primary job entails industrial doses of stress, worry alone isn’t at the core his works in glass. To truly understand Immerman’s glass work, I think we need to look at his photography. Or more precisely, at the eye that is constantly scrutinizing his surroundings, for color, pattern, rhythm, and especially for “moment”.
If I recall (I’ve known Immerman for at least 10 years and in that time heard snippets about his early work in photography) he was selling photos to national news magazines while still in his teens. That eye for Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” is rendered in Immerman’s glass not in documentary black and white, but in a snap of color and suggested movement.
During the Pilchuck residency Immerman’s eye turned often to the other residents. He had come to the program expecting to work on technical issues and was surprised in retrospect to find his attention had drifted elsewhere.
“The relationship between what I did at my work table at this year’s PAiR session and my ‘Network’ series may not be immediately evident because it was the experience and the people that affected me, more than my technical exploration. “
This observation of human interaction became the basis of Immerman’s newest “Network” series.
“This work explores social networks, relationships, and transitions” he wrote in the weeks following the time in Pilchuck – a time BTW capped by a final night spent “… high on the Pilchuck hill, shivering in my shorts and T-shirt trying to get a phone signal so I could find out what was happening back in Milwaukee” – where his daughter-in-law was giving birth to twins.
Surgeon, photographer, glass artist, grandpa (I’ve left out musician and actor, but this is a blog, not a novel). Steve Immerman, what next?
Oh yeah, “teacher.”. Immerman is indefatigably generous in sharing his technical knowledge with beginning kilnformers via his internet site. I’ve recently read endless enthusiastic discussion about his most recent how-I-did-it project on kiln-glass bulletin boards from coast-to-coast.
For an encyclopedic survey of Immerman’s technical generosity, go to clearwaterglass.com/kilnforming.html.
To read/see more on Steve Immerman surgeon/artist, go to immermanglass.com.
And once again, don’t miss the upcoming show “Act 2: The Next Track” at the Museum of Northwest Art.