Talking art, inspiration and the big impact of large scale sculptures

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Artists Erik and Israel Nordin, creators of the art exhibit SPARK, talk art, inspiration — and the big impact of large scale sculptures.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind SPARK? I understand that it was inspired by the city?

My brother Israel and I were thinking about the creative energy in Detroit, how it is magnetic – it draws you towards it. We feel it is indicative of hard work and passion. It is truly authentic. When you work hard at something you love, we believe it builds an energy that attracts others. We started to ask ourselves the question – “what was that moment that things changed in Detroit – how can we create something that represents that? What was the catalysis for the growth and current resurgence we are experiencing?”. Our pieces started to reflect some of the things we felt were happening here. The science of energy inspired us, clusters of objects gathering together, gravity, motion and theories of attraction. Our sculptures are heavy, built of metal, which makes balance and structure crucial, still we strive for our sculptures to be fluid.   We feel our sculptures have a timeless feel, they could be from the past or the future. Our gird series is inspired by a topographical view of a city…buildings, streets, cars and people.  The spheres in the sculptures symbolizes people gathering, attracting one another to something special. The title sculpture Spark, is from our Lifetree series, and it is our expression of the moment that Detroit’s growth ignited. The other pieces in the exhibit also reflect singular moments of change happening, like motion frozen in time.

Did you always do such large-scale sculptures? What draws you to them?

We love creating things we have never done, each of our projects are a new exploration. In order to grow as artists, we push our comfort level. Our sculptures tell a story about our client and are designed specifically for that purpose.   We want our pieces to be architecturally significant. Our sculpture “Generations” in Corktown speaks of our older generation working together with the new generation. Our sculpture “The Tail of Two Cities” set in Grosse Pointe Park this summer, has two sails side by side symbolizing two cities working together”. We have steel in our blood,  we grew up working in our fathers steel plant, learning what it can do, what we could create with it. We have two cranes in our studio, one 20 ton, that help us stretch the possibilities of what we can do.  In order to exist in their new environments, balance and structure are crucial in our pieces. We believe all artists are explorers. That is what we love about what we do, and to explore you have to go into unknown territory. Most important to us now is when our art can reach more people and offer inspiration in their lives.

Your 24-foot Detroit Menorah is one of the largest public menorah’s in the country. Do you design with a size in mind or does the size just follow the art?

Definitely size is important. When we were first approached to create the Detroit Menorah, it was proposed at 8 ft tall. We felt, in order to make a statement about our city, and for the community of Detroit – it needed to be big. We asked ourselves and the client…how big can we make it? When creating something for public spaces that will likely attract thousands of people, we feel the art piece needs to stand above the crowd as a symbol of unity and togetherness. Size can inspire.

Over the summer you completed commissioned pieces for cities across Michigan. Which is your favorite? You’re most challenging?

That’s a hard question to answer, our sculptures might be seen as our children…who could pick which of their children are their favorite? We love them all for their unique qualities and the stories that they tell for our clients. Each piece provides its own unique set of challenges. We are working currently on a sculpture for Sterling Heights, it has entailed three-dimensional computer imaging of wind load capacities, snow load and other logistics. As we push our capabilities we learn more with each piece and are blessed to have people around us that share our passion.

You could have moved anywhere, but chose Detroit? Why?

We are born and raised Detroiters, and have lived and worked here for many years. Detroit is our city. We wanted to make a difference here and have dedicated our careers to doing what we can.   We named our company the Detroit Design Center because at that time there was no Design Center in Detroit. We were the founding fathers of the Detroit Design Festival because we felt it was important to shine a light on the creative community here and to celebrate the importance of all art forms. The energy here is infectious, you can feel it. We felt it 20 years ago. Detroit is an amazing city with such a wealth of talent. She just needed to be dusted off.    That what artists do, they find the beauty in things and show the world that new view.

What’s next for the Nordin brothers?

We are now working with several cities for new projects next year, including art placement, landscaping and other opportunities. We have some really exciting elements for two new sculpture series for next year along with finishing our event space and gallery in midtown. The event space is 3000 square feet and has roughly 5000 sq. ft. our outdoor space for corporate gatherings and private parties. 2018 is going to be an amazing year!

Erik and Israel Nordin have been creating transformational sculptures in Detroit since 1999. Their work is currently on display at Beacon Park.