Ron Simmer doesn’t mind raising people’s eyebrows.
Whether it’s dreaming up a fanged HarperCat statue to make a statement about former prime minister Stephen Harper or creating a masturbating robot for Nevada’s famed Burning Man festival, he’s all about the idea that people have to be intrigued by art – and not just look at it, either.
“You have to touch it, feel it, climb it, relate to it,” he says.
It’s the artistic philosophy of Burning Man, and it’s one he brings into his own practice.
So you have to figure that his latest creation – the new, adult-only MELT installation at Luminescence III – wasn’t really going so very far out onto a limb.
Inspired by the work of Suzy Kellems Dominik and the 12-foot-high neon vagina she created for the Art Basel festival in Miami Beach, Simmer is putting his expertise with LED lighting and infinity mirrors to good use and creating his own immersive interpretation of a female orgasm.
“I’ve always been interested in infinity mirrors, infinity rooms, LED effects,” he says.
Simmer’s success with infinity rooms is well known – his installation, A Night Walk in Falling Snow, went viral on social media during the first incarnation of Luminescence in 2016 and drew thousands of people to Deer Lake Gallery for the experience.
For this one, he’s had some setbacks with computer programming, and one week ahead of the show he cheerfully admits it’s still a work in progress.
At the same time, he’s also still working on a public art piece for the City of Chilliwack that has run behind after hitting some fabrication snags.
Simmer confesses that it’s starting to wear him out and ponders that, now that he’s in his seventies, it may be time to slow down on the art front. But, as a board member of the Burnaby Arts Council, he’s looking forward to the chance to exhibit another piece in his own home gallery.
“Being an artist in this part of the world is extremely difficult,” he says, noting it’s not particularly easy to make a living – he himself continues his longtime work in patent research while pursuing his art on the side. “I’m obviously not what you call a bankable commercial artist.”