From graduating design school at Syracuse University in 1957, to managing his own interior architecture firm for 35 years, to exhibiting works throughout the country – acclaimed sculptor, Jerome Harris Parmet, has dedicated his life to the arts.
His sculptures, displayed in art centers, sculpture gardens, and private collections are revered for their presentation of simple shapes that assume complex dimensions and new forms from every angle. I was fortunate to interview Jerome Harris Parmet and get a glimpse into how he is able to manipulate metal into the multifaceted flowing figures that are his sculptures.
What inspired you to become an artist?
My mother recognized my early interest in art and sent me to the Brooklyn Museum to attend art classes while I was still a child. And, in high school, I was a member of the art society, The Artsmen. When I entered the design field after graduating with a BFA in Interior Design from Syracuse University, an aspect of the business that particularly fascinated me was solving spatial interrelationships in building architectural interiors. This carries over to developing my sculptures today, because just as in my past field of architecture, I am working with art in three-dimensional space.
Where did you get your training on welding and sculpture?
Back in my senior year of college, I had a welding class on Fridays from 2:00pm to 5:00pm, which is really not an optimal time for a college kid to attend class. Yet, when I looked up from my welding at 6:00pm to find my class room empty, I knew that I was hooked. It was my passion and I resolved that when I retired, I would pursue my passion again full time. And, that’s exactly what I have been doing for the past 12 years.
What inspires your work?
I am always captivated by well-designed products, art, and architecture in the world around us. I try to apply the principles of good design as guiding elements in my own work. My creative process usually begins with existing pieces of metal that have character… that speak to me. I add to it, my creative thinking to reshape that piece in an entirely new direction.
Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?
I admire the work of Mark di Suvero, John Chamberlin, John Van Alstine, and Richard Serra. Each artist has a different and distincitve style, and each motivates me in a different way.
What materials do you prefer to handle in the creation of your sculptures?
I sculpt mostly in steel. It talks to me and it listens to me, bending at my direction. I cut it, hammer it, melt it, twist it, and weld it – and it still loves me. Occasionally, I might add a chunk of glass or rough piece of wood to the mixture, but it’s primarily steel that I enjoy handling.
What satisfaction do you gain from creating your sculptures?
I gain emotional satisfaction from my craft. When I sculpt, there are moments... days sometimes of agony, when the work is frustratingly slow. The shapes are not right; the metal won’t bend. But, then the answers start to emerge and I can feel the piece talking to me. We are talking to each other. And, when it is complete, with every element having come together, we reminisce on the pains and delights it took to get there.
Have you found the Internet to have any effect on your work or creative process?
It has not affected my sculpting process, but has allowed me to appreciate the work of other sculptors.
Do you have a favorite sculpture that you have created?
Yes, I have two favorite pieces that are actually substantially different from each other.
Where can people go to see more of your work?
They can see my sculptures by going to www.sculpture.org/parmet.
Mr. Parmet, Thank you for sharing your talents. And, thank you for granting me this interview. It has been my honor to discuss your work with you.
I must say that I have a favorite one of your sculptures, too. The twists of the metal, the pairing of the colors, and the assembly of the elements remarkably reflect the title: “All That Jazz.”
I look at this piece and can just hear the drum brushes and saxophone. All I need is a Brandy Old Fashioned with orange twist.