The Surgeon with the SLR | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

The Surgeon with the SLR

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.

Dr Immerman stalking the elusive PAiR (photo: Lisa Allen)

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.

Pilchuck kiln studio

“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. “

Modeling Networks aka Neat Stuff to Make with Bullseye Packing Sheets

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?

Dr Steve Immerman and some of his greatest artworks

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

To read/see more on Steve Immerman surgeon/artist, go to

And once again, don’t miss the upcoming show “Act 2: The Next Track” at the Museum of Northwest Art.

10 Responses to The Surgeon with the SLR

  1. Thanks, Lani. It is so interesting to learn about each of the participants for this upcoming exhibition! I know some of them and am familiar with the the work of others. This introduction to their professional lives with the added bonus of images of their work is terrific. Thank you!

  2. Eileen Immerman says:

    He’s a pretty amazing husband and father too. Thanks Lani for such a nice tribute to a guy who is never, ever boring! (The top photo of his work with the two pink cubes? The twins!)

  3. Lani says:

    Terrie, I’ve had a good time getting to see the work, photos and words that came out of this project. Thanks to the residents who shared so much.

    Eileen, How perfect! And what else for the twins but the most expensive glass in the palette – a rare earth. ;-)

  4. Kim Brill says:

    Steve was very smart about how he used his Pilchuck time and he took advantage of a lot of expertise that was available in that studio. In a short week he made numerous bubble tests, explored powders AND even did a small casting. I admire his new work, which has emotion, meaning and a very personal connection behind it. It is much more than another gorgeous strip bowl.

  5. Judith says:

    In my humble opinion, Steve is a pretty awesome friend, too.

  6. I have been watching the pieces made by several of the artists who participated in this so very exciting residence.
    Their achievements are simpley thrilling! Including Steve’s work which I see here. I have no words to express my admiration.
    The amazing thing is, that I can see the develpment of each of these artists.
    I am acquainted with their previous work, and I can see the GREAT JUMP they made.
    This is really awesome.
    Good for you Steve! This wonderful!
    How I wish I had an opportunity like that…………….

  7. PAUL says:

    I think the whole “surgeon” thing is a scam. I base this on two facts: 1) take a look at how much excellent work he creates – no way he has time be a doctor too and 2) I’ve never met anyone he operated on. I’m pretty sure there’s a Snopes article on him.

  8. Paul-

    I understand your concern, and I hope I can present irrefutable evidence to the contrary, that I am indeed a surgeon:

    1- I have been known to wear scrubs, as evidenced by this photo.

    2- I have a website (written by me) that says I am a surgeon And we know we should believe everything we see on the internet.

    3- I have documentation that I am always asked to carve the turkey at Thanksgiving (documentation available on request).

    4- I have operated on people you know, but HIPPA regulations do not permit me to identify them.

    Also, I have searched I do not show up in their database, therefor I am not an urban legend.

    I hope this makes you more comfortable with accepting me as a surgeon.

    If not, I would be pleased to offer you the complimentary removal an organ, if that would be more convincing.


  9. Lani says:

    5- He texted this during an appendectomy.

  10. Elise says:

    I agree with Paul; this whole surgeon thing is a scam! I went to high school with Steve, shared the stage with him and can state that he is an artist and an actor!

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