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Michael Somoroff, the Per Contra Interview with Miriam N. Kotzin


Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about your work and the philosophy that underlies its creation.


MK:  Your most recent work, Illumination I was installed at the Rothko Chapel in Houston (November 12 through January).  Donald Kuspit has high praise for Illumination I (see Link here to article in PC).  Are you pleased with its reception in general? 


MS: Yes, very much so. First of all to have the chance to exhibit my art at The Rothko Chapel is an honor beyond words. I am profoundly grateful for this humbling opportunity. The legacy of those who are responsible for creating the chapel cast a long shadow indeed. The last installation there was of course Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk – a true twentieth century masterwork. To have been invited to place a sculpture there after more than thirty years without additional artwork being placed on the chapel’s campus, I think, is indicative of many things, not the least of which is that times change and that the chapel recognizes its need to stay contemporary by nourishing in diverse ways the community it champions.


Artists are a part of that community. I would like to see the chapel give other contemporary artists the same generous opportunity that was given to me. I have even suggested to the chapel that maybe they should consider creating a program of annual or bi-annual invitations to other artists. This kind of activity is a wonderful way of expressing the chapel’s commitment to the human rights concerns to which it is devoted. This kind of commitment is crucial in today’s world. It is, of course, at the heart of the chapel’s program to connect art with human rights—which, I believe, is just another way of saying the human right to fulfillment.  As individuals we cannot experience fulfillment until we are capable of real intimacy with one another.  I feel that the language of art is basic to this endeavor.


MK:  This is the largest piece you’ve done. [20 feet high, 37 feet long].  Do you have plans to do more large pieces? 


MS: It’s ironic really. I’m not really interested in objects per se. This includes art objects as well as other material things. I’m more interested in the quality of the human condition, which I believe is chiefly a spiritual concern.


I don’t consider myself “a sculptor”. I know too many very good ones to even for a moment privilege myself with that title. But I am an artist, and so, by definition, I’m concerned with the psychic qualities of our experience of the world; nevertheless, I believe that through the gesture of the creative process, a material object can be imbued with certain meanings, or better “qualities” that promote community.


This is important because it is the core dynamic of the process of reality creation. Reality is a consensus affair. Every experience of reality somehow includes a communion between people, which is, to my mind, the whole point behind any activity: the opportunity to contribute to the world at large by fully investing one’s self in the community.


Social interaction is the key here. It gives us all an actual possibility to improve the world by becoming more intimate with one another. For me this is one of the many goals of art, to bring us closer to one another.


MK:  What happens to Illumination I at the end of January?


MS:  It is my hope that it will travel. There have been several overtures to take it on the road by a number of institutions and individuals I have great respect for. With the kind of enthusiasm the installation has received thus far, I hope it will surface again soon somewhere. I’m in a number of serious discussions now—the New York metropolitan area and Germany seem particularly imminent.



You can visit the Michael Somoroff official website -

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Per Contra Winter 2006-2007