SHELLY FIREMAN is well- known as an accomplished restaurateur with nine restaurants, seven in New York City and two in National Harbor, Maryland. What is less well-known is that Fireman has been a sculptor for many years .
A Native New Yorker; he studied briefly at the Sculpture Center and the Art Students League for his first formal training. Following that, Fireman began the process of self-education approaching sculpting with the same artistry and intense commitment he brings to his restaurants.
Fireman’s sculptures are bold, witty and liberated– often dealing with Fireman’s ironic sense of life and keen observation of the world around him.
For the past few years, Fireman has been honing his skills in sculpting, creating pieces in his home / studio in Camaiore, Italy, where he is surrounded by artist friends and acquaintances. Inspired by the natural beauty of his surroundings, he works closely with the local foundries to create his pieces of art.
Fireman’s first sculpture is on display in the National Harbor and is one of the most photographed pieces of art in Maryland. His newly created, playful, spirited site- specific sculptures can be seen in his new restaurant, Florian in New York City.
Fireman is also a collector with a large art collection which includes pieces from Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Julian Schnabel, Red Grooms, Leroy Neiman, Elizabeth Murray, Peter Max, Mark Kostabi, Jean-Michel Folon, etc.
I was first exposed to art and sculpture at the age of six at the NYU Bronx Campus’ “Hall of Fame”, which was my playground as a child – until the police would chase us. My father made me my first turntable at the age of seventeen and shortly thereafter I bought my first sculpting book at Woolworths 5 & 10 called “Anyone Can Sculpt.” I spent the next year turning the pages and teaching myself how to sculpt at home. After completing the book, I took lessons at the Sculpture Center and the Art Students League (but I remember the nudes more than the classes).
Years later, I was drawn to the Italian country side because of my enthusiasm for adventure and the nature of my business (Italian restaurants). After 15 years at my home in Italy, constantly being exposed to local artists and artisans and feeling like I had created enough art in the restaurants I had built, I decided I had spent enough money on other people’s art and it seemed logical to spend money creating my own. My impetus for delving back into sculpting also stemmed from wanting to be remembered long after my restaurants were gone.
Italy is a great influence. It gives me the time to think and work with people I want to work with, as opposed to being in New York. My creative routine involves thinking, feeling, observing my surroundings, doing homework, clipping pictures and articles and sensing the people and their values and the world around me. While I’m there, I have more time to focus on art and have access to the people and the materials to work with.
Sometimes I feel like I’m floating on a magic carpet – seeing the world and wanting to share my feelings and interpretations and also bringing my joy and happiness to others. Although doing art is not a safe refuge, it really exposes your inner self.