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Dittmar Exhibit Explores Artist’s Work From Start to Finish

“Sculptures and Preparatory Works” by Michael Ferris Jr., July 10-Aug. 12

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Reused or reclaimed wood is given new life in the hands of New York-based artist Michael Ferris Jr. Ferris uses the hard, fibrous materials he collects to create larger-than-life, three-dimensional mosaic-like sculptures of family members and friends, which reflect his Lebanese heritage.

Six of Ferris’ completed wood sculptures and a sculptural maquette (a small preliminary model) he is currently working on in his Bronx studio -- along with drawings and schematics that led to their making -- will be featured in Ferris’ solo exhibition.

“Sculptures and Preparatory Works,” opens at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery on Thursday, July 10 with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m., and runs through Aug. 12. The gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. The exhibition and an opening reception are free and open to the public.

The Dittmar exhibition will explore the process that goes into creating art. Ferris prefers making labor-intensive sculptures because he likes to spend extensive time on each piece he creates. Working from two months on a head to a year or more on a life-size sculpture allows him to develop a personal connection to the material and finished art work.

Ferris’ sculptures and preliminary works are inspired by his Lebanese cultural roots. One of the exhibition highlights is a six-foot tall, wood-tiled sculpture titled “Toufic,” that represents an elderly great uncle. The ornately patterned figure, weighing close to 200 pounds, depicts a bald, stocky man in a wrinkled shirt tucked into belted trousers. The entire piece -- which is covered in thousands of small, hand-shaped and color tinted inlaid wood tiles -- took Ferris more than a year to complete. Nearby are related preliminary sketches and diagrams of Uncle Toufic’s head and torso.

Ferris – who grew up in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood -- was inspired by two inlaid Middle-Eastern backgammon tables in his childhood home.

Ferris’ sculptures range from raw and chunky to very smooth and refined, which are achieved with both hand carving tools and power tools.

He hopes visitors to the Dittmar show leave with an understanding of the importance of process in the creation of artwork.

Ferris’ work has been exhibited locally and nationally. He also teaches high school art in the Bronx. For more on the artist and his work, visit

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