Janna Stern is an inveterate artist whose prolific body of work is celebrated for her ability to combine compelling imagery with a didacticundercurrent. Deftly drawing the often-elusive line between art and science, Stern offers up visual accounts of prevalent social issues plaguing our modern society with sophisticated intellect and a profound compassion for the human condition.
Stern’s work as it appears today is the product of an artist’s natural progression. Her artistic sensibilities came to light as a child growing up in a small mid-western town, where she developed an appreciation for color, nature and the beauty of simple objects. An integral force in Stern’s creative development was her mother, a gifted artist who gave private art lessons that centered on the more proper elements of drawing and design. Stern applied some of these skills when jaded with regular classroom curriculum, seeking entertainment in creating miniature sculptures of cars, tepees and dolls out of paper and cardboard.
A family move to the Los Angeles area during adolescence further stimulated Stern’s artistic exploration of thought. In stark contrast to the sheltered life in a small non-industrial town, metropolitan Southern California provided a first glimpse of a carefree and media-driven lifestyle. Museums and theatres were more accessible, exposing the burgeoning artist to a vibrant art community that she never knew existed. In lieu of her mother’s technically accurate portraits and landscapes, she witnessed conceptual art laden with emotion and fashioned using unconventional media.
In delving further into contemporary artistic styles Stern acquired an interest for assemblage and expressionist art. As an adult, she created works out of driftwood, leather, paper and carpet scraps; the latter from which she made decorative rugs that resembled works by Mondrian. Stern also displayed a knack for toy making, inspired by her role as a mother. Believing that her children’s toys would carry greater significance if made by her own hand, she created patterns and objects that often incorporated characters from their favorite books. It was around this time that Stern became conscious of her constant need to create, an awareness met by her decision to turn to paper and canvas and a commitment to realize herself as an actual artist.
Stern’s creative exploration turned to a more conceptual and evocative style as she drew inspiration from her profession as a psychoanalyst. Analytic work focuses on interpreting conflicts by formulating images and metaphors from the patient’s revelations. The imaginative nature of this process linked her artistic aptitude and medical expertise. Stern’s assessment and treatment of patients required creative thinking and image building, the fruits of which permeated her subject matter and iconography. The ability to coalesce artistic and analytic passions is exemplified in Stern’s provocative series of collages titled “Measure for Measure: An Artistic Exploration of the Mythology of Eating Disorders”. The collection, exhibited extensively at college and university campuses, tackled the insidiously pervasive epidemic of eating disorders plaguing the youth in our society. These primal images grasped from the depths of primary process thinking demonstrate rich and raw creative juices flowing freely without fear of judgment, criticism or rejection. It is in this manner that many of Stern’s compositions reveal thoughtful insights into the human condition.
Stern’s ability to tactfully challenge popular preconceptions with alluring imagery has lead to an extensive exhibition history in the United States, predominantly in California, New York, Washington and Georgia, as well as international recognition with group shows in London, England and Budapest, Hungary, and South Africa. Her work has also been used in such award-winning shows as ER, Will and Grace, Washington Street, Bold and the Beautiful, and Six Feet Under. Such widespread appreciation is a mere testament to Stern’s unwavering commitment to create art that speaks not only to the eye and mind, but to the heart and soul.