Michael Ferris Jr.’s large-scale sculptures of recycled wood take portraiture to an extreme. His figures, often of close friends and family, are massive; one torso measures more than five feet tall. Ferris’ interest is in the balance of extremes; between the stoic and classical compositions of his sculpture and the tattoo-like patterns of painted wood on the clothing and flesh of each figure. As his process develops, Ferris’ concentrates on infusing each portrait with genuine human presence.
The complex patterns on each form are deeper than the subject’s surface. Ferris adopted an inlay technique from the Middle East called intarsia—different woods and grains pieced together to create complex images and patterns—and a notable reference to the artist’s Lebanese heritage.
Ferris’ begins his process with many drawings to guide each sculpture, and continues the drawing process as the sculpture progresses to completion. Each drawing connects to a specific stage of the sculpture's construction—from issues of likeness, proportion and mood to drawings that directly inform the pattern, scale and concept of the 3-dimensional sculpture.
“Ultimately,” writes Michael Ferris, “my main motivation is to transcend and transform the discarded wood into something that is very well crafted, beautiful and most importantly an expression of my subject’s and my own psychological and spiritual inner self.”
Michael Ferris Jr. is the son of well know imagist artist Eleanor Spiess-Ferris. He earned his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1991 and his MFA from Indiana University in 1996. Ferris is the recipient of numerous awards including the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship and several BRIO Grants in Sculpture provided by the Bronx Council on the Arts. Ferris’s work has shown at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Queens Museum in Flushing, NY, and the Illinois State Museum. Ferris travels extensively as a lecturer and visiting artist. He currently lives, works and teaches in New York.