Artist Ezra Silverman is fascinated with infinity.
His metal series “Elements,” which just completed a one-year exhibit at Cafeteria in New Paltz, offers endless possibilities of interpretation. Silverman’s various-sized sheets of metal are scattered with holes, creating shapes of whatever the eye wants to see, from an elephant to the night sky.
“I see them like the biggest objects, like the universe, stars, galaxies and I see them as microscopic images of cells, the structures and plants and humans, all sorts of things. And then I see them on our scale too,” said Silverman.
The St. Louis, Miss. raised welder moved to Ulster County in 2005 after studying metal at Purchase College. He said he took every single art class he could in high school and really enjoyed working with metal, especially bronze.
His inspiration for “Elements” sparked when he was teaching a class at the Educational Alliance in Manhattan. He had been showing a woman how to weld and “she kept making holes in the metal.”
“In order to instruct her better so that she had a feel for how long and what she was doing wrong, I said, ‘Let’s make holes together in the metal.’ Basically after completing a row of holes myself, I sort of saw the imagery of one of my favorite artists, Yayoi Kusama,” he said.
Silverman said he liked experimenting with mirrors in college before he had heard of Kusama, who creates rooms covered in mirrors. He finally saw Kusama’s work at the Whitney Biennial in New York City.
“There’s pretty much nothing like it that I’ve ever seen. I went into this room and it was filled with these kind of phallic snake objects that were covered in polka dots or stripes and when I saw it, it basically went on forever and ever,” he said. “They call them ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’ I related the work I started to see when I was cutting those holes.”
This inspirational touch helped push Silverman to finish his series, which has about 50 pieces and took around three years to complete. Depending on the size of the piece, Silverman said it takes anywhere from nine to 50 hours to finish.
The elements of the series relate to fire, water and Silverman’s love for nature; all of the metal he used is whatever he could scramble together.
“Every piece is recycled metal. I’ll use whatever I can find,” he said. “Metal’s expensive if you have to buy it. If you can find it, it’s pretty cool.”
Silverman currently has two large waterfall metal pieces in the Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary in the Bronx and Rotary Park in Kingston.
“[Waterfalls are] amazingly fluid and endless. That falls back into my whole interest in infinity. I think it’s pretty cool that somehow water can shape rock and move like earth,” he said.
Welding the metal does have its problems, however. One larger piece made from recycled fire doors, “Embers,” became hard to work with when Silverman began to get sick from the fumes.
“I envisioned it having a lot more [holes] at first. Then I realized I was getting deathly ill when I was cutting into it. Inside there was this nasty fireproof foam and glue that was attaching the foam to the door. Every time I would weld it I’d get sick for a couple of days afterwards,” he said.
Silverman is currently teaching an art class in White Plains and is also working on getting a few pieces into a show in January.
“I haven’t had a place to weld in a while. I’ve been on a sort of break from this work,” he said. “I’ve been doing portraits and I sketch a lot. I plan to keep making work. Hopefully figure out how to get them into bigger venues – maybe museums and galleries.”