Art first learned to float, pivot, and spin around under the innovative hands of American sculptor, Alexander Calder. Since then, mobiles have moved into shopping malls, classrooms, and even above baby beds throughout the world. Graceful at any size, they dance around midair and draw attention to an area next to an entryway or stairwell that might seem awkward without it.
Steven Haas knows about filling spaces with moving art. He started crafting mobiles for a 1968 high school project. Calder’s influence was pervasive at the time, but Haas found himself reflecting on ideas of his own for the art form. “In the mid-eighties I got some tools that I couldn’t afford when I was younger,” explains Haas. “With those tools I made some custom made tools that allowed me to then develop what I’m doing now. I had no idea where it was going to take me, but I knew I wanted to try this thing that I had in my head.” Haas uses aluminum that has been specially finished for his suspended expressions. Beautifully balanced, the mobiles seem to reach out and invite the viewer to explore the open space they occupy.
After a time in college and then the military, Haas settled on custom-building motorcycles for ten years. “That was kind of my art at the time.” He moved back to mobiles in the 1980’s and after a time found himself with an abundance of inventory. “I had so many of them. So I decided I had to take them out in the world, and that’s when I began doing art fairs, to see if there was a market for them.”
From mobiles, Haas moved into stationary sculptures, with a definite emphasis on fish. “I was making mobiles continuously for years and I thought, ‘Well, for a change of pace, I want to start making sculpture.’ One of those sculptures can take several months to complete.” An avid fisherman, Haas says he sculpts fish species that can be found in the bay of Green Bay.
When it comes to the surface details on the aluminum and stainless steel materials, Haas says he works hard to make his work his own. “Artists that work with metals are constantly finding different ways to finish them,” he says. “Every detail can set your work apart, and the finish is one of those details. We all use pretty much the same kind of tools and abrasives.”
Haas works in a shop on his property, but some projects of his can be so expansive they never reach their full potential until he actually installs the work in the public space. “I’ve never had a shop big enough where I can hang them fully intact. The first time I see them fully assembled is the day they go up and that has caused me a few bad nights of sleep,” he says with a laugh. A small mobile can take Haas two hours to make, while a large – scale project, such as the mobile hanging in the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, can require 90 days.
Art elicits a different reaction in every viewer, but Haas believes his mobiles draw attention because they bring a mechanized sense of life to an area. “You put a mobile in a space and you live with it, you get used to it being there. Then you take it away and it’s like the life went out of the room; people really miss it. This kind of art brings an area into focus, in a way.”
He likes the way people get caught in the spell of the slowly turning mobiles when he displays his work at art shows like Arti Gras. “When there’s a good amount of traffic I always like to see if I can stop the traffic. People come around the corner and they stop and create a bottleneck. I always enjoy that.”
And though the larger projects are often very challenging and somewhat exhausting for Haas, he admits that the end result is satisfying. He clearly loves his art and can’t help but spy new possibilities for installations around town.
You can enjoy Haas’ mobiles and sculptures up close at Edgewood Orchard Gallery in Fish Creek, and Abler Art Glass Gallery in Kiel, or go to StevenHaasMobiles.com to learn more about this gifted local artist.