Steven Feren was born in 1951 and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He received his initial training at the Dayton Art Institute and later studied at Alfred University where he worked as a Teaching Assistant, receiving the BFA degree in sculpture in 1979. He attended Rutgers University as a Teaching Assistant and earned the Master of Fine Arts degree in 1981. He was an assistant at the Mason Gross School of Art in New Brunswick, NJ (1979-80) before taking positions at Douglas College (New Brunswick, NJ) and Morris County College (Dover, NJ) during 1981-82.
In 1982, he began teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison inheriting the nation’s infamous studio glass program started by the late Harvey Littleton who inspired many his students, such as Dale Chihuly, Marvin Lipofsky, and other innovative artists working with glass. During his tenure, Feren’s artistic fortitude extended the use of glass to also be used in combination with other materials. His artistic direction and teaching has had a great impact on the recent generation of young artists inspired by the open-ended use of glass, light and the many other material options for personal expression. This potential adds a new dynamic to studio glass. Feren retired from the university in 2013 as an Emeritus Professor.
Best known for his glass works, Feren creates sculptural objects combining a variety of media utilizing cast and blown glass with steel, aluminum, mosaics, ceramic, concrete, acrylics, screened images, painted or drawn elements, fiber optics, LEDs, neon and fluorescent light. His work is a manifestation of a desire to create work that is assessable, yet sheds light on the complexity of the human condition. He is concerned with the persistence of life and the miracle of discovery. His art looks for joy to cultivate faith. He writes in an exhibition catalog, “I am interested in work that is physically and historically rooted yet speaks to the spirit, work that is straight forward, but can operate mysteriously. There are no simple answers to matters of the Heart.” Some of his inspirational points of departure include outsider art and the spirit of artists like: Pieter Brueghel, Constantin Brancusi, Mark Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Antonio Gaudi, Philip Guston, Edward Kienholz, Joan Miro, and many other inventive, idiosyncratic models.
Along with his glass works, he creates sculpture for public spaces since 1980 to link his role as an artist to the community. He feels that art in the public forum does not often have the levels of meaning that can sustain over time. His interest is to create a form of art that is awkward on some levels, but able to transcend its limitations on others. He pushes the limits of his works to operate on many levels through the physical and nonphysical phenomenon of his materials and imagery.
Selected Public Collections: His public works and commissions include: glass cast wall for the Salamaon-Scheter School in Cleveland; outdoor sculpture at the Belfaire Residential Treatment Center; outdoor sculpture, “Gear”, at the City of Milwaukee Fire Station #23; glass piece for Oslo, Norway (gifted by the City of Madison); sculpture for Oakton College, Des Plains. IL; cast glass gates for the Fitchburg (WI) Public Library; installation, “Prana Flight”, a series of suspended glass objects at the West Bend Insurance Atrium; outdoor light, kinetic sculpture, Braddock (PA); 12 lighted metal towers for the atrium at the University of Wisconsin Kohl Center; fiber optic sculpture installation, “Birds in Flight”, Oceanside (CA); fiber optic sculpture, “Birger Home”, Palo Alto (CA); lighted wall sculpture, Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Parkside; installation of fiber optics, glass and concrete sculptures, “Topiary Lucere”, Marriot Hotel, Milwaukee; painted steel environment, “Riverwalk Arches”, Milwaukee; iridized glass, concrete and steel sculptures, “Topiary Trees”, City of Whitefish Bay (WI); hanging sculpture-handblown cylinders, glass and metal, ”Megaphore”, Washington Park Public Library, Milwaukee; metal sculptures with glass block encased unique screen prints, City of Fitchburg (WI) Library; cast glass wall, Johnson Bank, Madison.
Other works are at the University of Wisconsin-Plattville; Santa Fe Neurosurgery Center (NM); Franklin Public Library (NJ); Finney Library (Milwaukee); Wison Performing Arts Center (Brookfield, WI); Promega Corporation (Madison); Grainger School of Business, UW-Madison.