Reflections on Change by Rebecca Stern

2018 has been a difficult year thus far.

Losing my father turned my world upside down and backwards and affected me in ways I never would have imagined. I now think about death and life much more than I ever did before. This major life change altered my work in the studio.

 January 22, 2018

January 22, 2018

I spent most of January dragging myself to the studio every day and making work that truly felt like someone else made it. Odd shapes, colors that weren’t mine, everything felt foreign. My normal reaction to this would be frustration and self-doubt.  Instead of fighting this new territory, I decided to ride the wave.

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After many destroyed canvases, and paintings on paper that got torn up to repurpose into collages, my work and the world started to make sense to me again. It was a slow transition to this point, but once I got there it was pure bliss. A feeling in which nothing else mattered except my present interaction with the materials and the confidence that whatever I did was the right thing. And if it didn’t turn into a masterpiece, it was okay because it was an experience to create it. And that experience, would inform the next piece I made and so on in a never ending cycle of influence.

 

This new work was pouring out of me, like I couldn’t put paint to canvas fast enough.

Through creating, through thinking, through feeling, through attention and presence it became clear to me what brings me back to the studio. This experience pushed me to write a new artist statement, a task which I dislike greatly but as with my painting, this time it flowed.
 

"I externalize my internal monologue into a visual narrative. In the studio, I am in control. Regardless of what else might be going on in my life or the world,  I paint, collage, stitch, and construct materials. My aim is to understand the relationship between my existence and the events that take place around me. I create a “mental landscape” to explore themes of intrinsic motivation, control, chance, change, and balance.  Gestural marks produce a visual depiction of thought patterns illustrated through repetition, texture, juxtaposition, color and negative space. Manipulating materials in my studio assists me in mitigating the fact that I can’t control what goes on in the day to day. I’m on a journey towards accepting what is.   It is this fact that brings me back to the studio again and again."

 

 "Where I Was Standing" - Acrylic, ink, stitching and paper on paper - 2018

"Where I Was Standing" - Acrylic, ink, stitching and paper on paper - 2018

See more from the new series title Remnant, here.

Creating on the Go: Backpacking! by Rebecca Stern

Creating outside of the studio is a challenge in general as it imposes limitations on size and materials. However, when preparing for my first backpacking trip knowing I wanted to create on the trail was even more of a challenge. My Fiance Tom and I planned to hike part of the Appalachian Trail with our dog Sansa. We had done a lot of hiking and camping but never backpacking - we were excited for the adventure!

 

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I knew that keeping the weight of my art-making supplies down was going to be key, so I ended up having to make a lot of sacrifices in that regard. I later learned while on the trail, that the simple supplies I brought were just enough and something I looked forward to doing at the end of a 12 mile day - along with my Top Ramen of course.

 

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As an abstract painter, I take my thoughts and emotions and use the materials at hand to translate into a visual representation. But on the trail, creating felt different. I was present and focused on taking care of my basic human needs. I didn’t care that I hadn’t showered and didn’t have makeup on. I didn’t stress about the future or the past. Instead of my emotions dictating my work, I noticed my surroundings influencing my work.  My color choices were based the things I saw on the trail, especially the colors of all of the different types of moss. My line use was indicative of the terrain I hiked that day and my brushstrokes were fluid, calm.

 

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In a way, this trip felt like a hiatus from my normally overactive brain - a welcome retreat.

 

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Encapsulate: The Process of Letting Go by Rebecca Stern

Have you ever had an experience so amazing that you never want to forget? Something so joyful you want to stay in that moment forever. Or a time of that you wish never happened? An experience so painful, you wish you could stuff it in a box, under the bed and never see it again.

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While this experience in my life is relatively insignificant, the lesson that resulted from it is something that continues to influence me to this day. I was about ten on a cross country trip with my family. My Grandmother had passed away and we were driving her grey Ford Taurus from New York to California. We were hiking in Yellowstone when we stopped to sit on a log for a snack. When we got back to hiking, I felt something sticky on my brand new orange, red and yellow striped leggings from The Gap my Grandmother had bought for me. Sticky, ooey, gooey sap. I must have asked my mother a million times if the sap would come out of my pants. I’m  sure my Mom was exacerbated by my worry, but instead of getting frustrated with me she repeated some words she read from the Dhali Llama.

“If you can’t do anything about it in this moment to change it, then there’s no use worrying about it. And if you can do something about it, then there’s no reason to worry.”

 

Those words helped the worried little girl with dirty blonde hair, big rosey cheeks, and outfits that were always matching release the fear.  And as a 30 year old woman, my mother’s words still guide me in times of worry - generally for events more serious than sap on my pants, but not always!  

My life as an artist is continually influenced by my mother’s spiritual sense and pure wisdom.

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About a year ago, I started this body of work called The Presence Project  as a reminder and a practice for myself to stay in the present. Through the process of creating these intuitive and non-premeditated works of art, I began to think about the small moments that we experience in life. The moments we wish we could relive over and over again, the ones that seem insignificant, and the times that we want to forget.

 

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I began working with these encapsulated organic shapes with different levels of complexity contained within them. I allow these “Encapsulations” to serve as a container for moments that inevitably pass. Had I been able to let go of the of the worry of getting sap on my pants when I was ten, I would have been able to enjoy the experience of hiking in Yellowstone more. Through the wisdom of my mother, I’m slowly learning and internalizing that all things change. Time moves and while we can’t hold on to any one moment, thing or person, we can control the way our mind deals with the turbulence of life.