Michael Ulman, AS ’00, is a freelance artist in the Boston area. Most recently, his exhibition Femme Trouvés is on display at Northeastern’s Gallery 360. But the sculptures seen there are not the norm as an artist for UIman, as his interests lie within something almost completely different — motorcycles, engines, and hot rods.
In recent months, Ulman was contracted to work on the Oscar-winning movie Mad Max: Fury Road, which he describes as “a match made in heaven”. The directors of the movie had seen his work and style in one of his exhibitions Gone Postal in a gallery in California. They knew that Ulman’s art style and the outlandish, steam-punk characteristics of the movie’s cars, outfits, and props would be a great fit. Ulman was then given the opportunity of designing the guitar that Max himself uses in the movie.
This style and detail is not a random trait, but rather forged from a long history and lineage of art and sculpture. Ulman’s parents are both artists in their own right, his father is a sculptor and his mother, Judy Ulman, is a photographer and administrator here at the University in the Art + Design department. Michael’s love of motorcycles and hot rods came from a young age, craning his neck at the sight of anything that was on wheels and moved fast. His passion started to fuel his art, when he started to draw motorcycles and hot rods, then, moving to sculpting them with his dad at a very young age. Then, he came to Northeastern and quickly started to take as many art classes to figure out exactly what he wanted to do. He quickly found out that sculpture and 3-D work was his favorite; fascinated with this idea that he could create such a detailed, intricate figure whilst portraying movement and speed.
His obsession with vehicles make it easy for a motor head to point out the excessive attention to detail on some of his artwork. However, Femme Trouvés, his latest work, is not about the engines and hot rods — instead it’s a sculpture of a very different figure. Ulman described his work on the new models of women in different poses as “freeing to work with, but still trying to incorporate the same motion that I do with the hot rods and motorcycles.” Each figure represents a different personality, and allows the viewer to put in their own relative touch using their personal memories and experiences to dictate each piece.
At his time as a student at Northeastern, Ulman fondly remembers Art + Design faculty Mira Cantor as someone who helped him find his path and craft his style, and of course, Judy Ulman his mother definitely helped too. Michael was able to take a “variety” of classes and walk away with as many skills as possible, experiencing drawing to sculpting, and he frequently said how much Northeastern was key at understanding the practical side of the art world. And this isn’t Michael’s first time at Northeastern as a professional artist either; one of his exhibitions launched Gallery 360 when it opened a few years ago, and his motorcycle sculpture is hanging prominently in the lobby of International Village.
His advice for prospective art students? Understand the practical side of artwork. Know how to sell your pieces and your brand, and still hold the fervent passion for art dear to your heart.