Sherman's childhood might be cautiously labeled happy if it were not for his childhood obsession with the holocaust. His Jewish father fought the Germans in W.W.II and was severely injured from land mind explosions. .(his rescuers also stepping on land minds) .... "watching the recovery of my father left lasting fears and apprehensions of war and my identify as a Jew was burdened with a strong fear and infatuation with the holocaust, especially the medical experiments and mechanized methodical techniques the Germans used to experiment, dominate and destroy the Jewish culture of Europe."
Sherman was raised in a Jewish neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. Many of his neighbors were holocaust survivors. While some individuals were extremely bitter from the experience other more observant Jewish survivors seemed to cherish life often attributing their survival as witness to Hitler's failed attempt to destroy the Jewish people. "I could not understand this feeling and sided with the fearful bitter individuals...... If you are a Jew the Germans or the world for that matter wanted to kill you. This persistent fear ruined my childhood and severed my connection from Judaism. As a young adult Ira replaced his Jewish identity with that of an artist willing to explore darker and more disturbing emotional content in his work. Sherman sought to reconnect with his Jewish identify but still allow his edgy artist expressions. Sherman's work all at once began to express beauty, anger, violence and redemption. He chose to compartmentalize his metalsmithing skills to simultaneously create stunning precious jewelry and institutional Judaica.
Ira's grandfather, a Russian immigrant, escaping the dangers of the Russian pogroms, started the families used machinery business located in a downtown Chicago industrial area. Ira spent many childhood hours examining and "playing" with the powerful metal fabrication equipment, absorbing the function and mechanical aesthetic of each type of machine. The grimy public transportation trip from the Sherman's Chicago's north side four flat to his fathers business was grim and almost void of any pleasant aesthetic. "At an early age I found myself wanting to manipulate mechanical architectural lines into lyrical beautiful forms. At first as drawings and sketches and later as found object sculpture. The almost universal acceptance of impressionistic and abstract art in post war America gave me the freedom to let my mind explore any direction, concept or morality in my art and design." This artistic exploration started at a very young age but really did not appear in any of Sherman's art objects until the early 70s when Ira was introduced to formal metalsmithing techniques that allowed him to master metal as an expressive media. The anything goes attitude of the 60s further challenged Sherman to take on concepts and techniques that are rarely melded into physical art objects.
As an asthmatic, nervous and allergic child Ira spent many hours at the doctors for weekly allergy shots, fluoroscope exams for stomach problems and yearly booster shots. "Some of my doctors were chain smoking quacks. I began to associate the instruments of their medical profession with the instruments used by the Nazis to experiment and torture the Jews." Sherman began to blend the inspirations and aesthetics of his fathers metal fabrication machines, his doctors medical instruments and prosthetic legs worn by his wounded father into a new collections of sculptures he titles, "Panaceas to Persistent Problems and Impenetrable Devices"
Each of Sherman's prosthetic devices are designed to be stunningly beautiful, technically ingenious, culturally challenging and intimately attached to human experience. Early conceptual sculptures gave way to plausible machines that regulate aggressive, sexual, antisocial behaviors but using a lovely aesthetic to counter an ugly temperament.