Metal sculptor carries his grandparents’ torch at SOPAC gallery

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The Herb + Milly Iris Gallery at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, 1 SOPAC Way in South Orange will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a special fundraiser and exhibition. “L’Dor V’Dor: Carrying the Torch,” by Jeremy Iris-Williams, Herb and Milly Iris’ grandson, is the first metal art exhibition by this emerging artist. An opening reception will be held Saturday, Dec. 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. 

“L’dor v’dor” is a Hebrew expression meaning “from generation to generation.” This phrase encapsulates the notion of honoring one’s predecessors by passing on wisdom, traditions and stories.

Milly Iris established the Iris Gallery in 2011 to honor her late husband, Herb. Once Milly Iris died in 2014, the couple’s daughters, Roree and Kerry, honored their parents through continued support of the Iris Gallery. Now, Iris-Williams is exhibiting in the art gallery.

“Jeremy Iris-Williams is a torchbearer, both figuratively and literally,” gallery curator Jeremy Moss said. “He continues the creative lineage of his Nona, Milly Iris, who inspired him to become the artist he is today.”

The “L’Dor V’Dor: Carrying the Torch” exhibition will be on view from Dec. 4 through Jan. 30. The gallery is open from Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Visitors can purchase tickets to the opening reception or contribute to the gallery fundraiser through SOPACnow.org.

Milly Iris was a pioneer of the American crafts movement, opening a one-of-a-kind crafts gallery, Whichcraft Studio, in South Orange in 1970. Later, she served on the first SOPAC board of governors, which was responsible for cultivating the vision for SOPAC.

A steadfast believer in “living with art,” Milly Iris passed that passion for creativity on to her grandson, Iris-Williams. She fostered his curiosity in the arts and encouraged him to pursue his talents.

Ten years ago, in celebration of Milly Iris’ 80th birthday, Iris-Williams unveiled his first sculpture — a large, striking wooden piece — at SOPAC. Six years later, he enrolled in the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His application concluded with a heartfelt dedication “… in honor of Nona, who made me believe I could be an artist.”

In college, Iris-Williams quickly discovered a talent and affinity for metal sculpture and immersed himself in welding and metal fabrication. Most of his work is abstract; he is interested in using metal in unexpected ways.

“I see a sheet of steel as my blank canvas,” Iris-Williams said. “There are no rules or restrictions. I have full freedom to think and create. With my metalworking, the possibilities are endless.”

About two dozen of his pieces will be on view in “L’Dor V’Dor: Carrying the Torch.” These works were created in the artist’s Kensington, Pa., studio during the last year and a half.

“I would describe them as ‘metal origami’ with a twist,” Moss said of Iris-Williams’ work. “Whether they be decorative or functional, his sculptures are fascinating, thought-provoking and elegant.”

Photos Courtesy of SOPAC

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