Artist Spotlight: Douglas La Ferle

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
La Ferle's "Wellington Radar," on display at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center as part of this year's Michigan Fine Arts Competition, features light, sound and video.

A weekly feature showcasing local artists

Name: Douglas La Ferle

Aesthetic: Multi-media artist and painter who creates robotic sculptures that reflect his love of art, science and salvage.

History: After 30 years as a professional architect, La Ferle switched gears to pursue a second career in art in 2006. Science and technology figure prominently into his work, which often includes 3-D elements, movements, soundscapes, light and video. "It’s as if the discards from the Edison lab and Grandpa’s attic, woke up and came to life," he writes on his website. La Ferle, who is based in Royal Oak and St. Joseph, said he's inspired by Edison, Tesla and the Wright brothers. He aims to create a "momentary relationship" between the viewer and his creations. "The viewer becomes a collaborator as well as an observer," he writes on his website. "At the same time, the use of salvaged material and everyday objects gives everyone a familiarity and personal connection to the sculptures."

Up next: La Ferle's "Wellington Radar" — a tribute to mid-20th century UFO hunters — is on display until Aug. 18 as part of this year's Michigan Fine Arts Competition at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, 1516 S. Cranbrook Road in Birmingham. Described as an interactive kinetic assemblage, it "uses distance detection to sense if a viewer is present," said La Ferle. "Based on the distance of the viewer from the piece, it plays one of three different light and sound sequences that include movements, sounds, light shows and videos of UFO depictions in classic movies." To learn more about La Ferle's work, go to