Stark by name and nature – Jen Stark’s kaleidoscopic paper and wood sculptures, splashed from tip to toe in rainbow-coloured cosmic constellations are distinctively, unapologetically hers. The Miami-based artist chats projects past, present and future with Wonderland.
Your art is very vibrant, bright and colourful – does this reflect your personality?
I think so, yes. I’m usually a positive, upbeat person and that comes through in my art. Miami does have pretty amazing weather too, although generally Miamians aren’t known as the most friendliest people [laughs]! They are once you get to know them.
When and how did you first discover paper sculptures?
This happened in the south of France, Aix-en-Provence. I decided to study abroad there for a semester, during college. I could only bring two suitcases, so I filled it with clothes and decided to purchase art supplies in France. The Euro was very high then, so I went to an art store and decided to buy one of the cheapest materials there. I purchased an assorted colour stack of construction paper and began experimenting in my studio. Eventually, I began turning them into three-dimensional sculptures.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey as an artist so far.
I was born and grew up in Miami, then went to college in Baltimore at Maryland Institute College of Art. After I graduated in 2005, I took a job creating art walls for a big retail company. We would fly around the US and live in hotels for a couple weeks in each city. The job taught me discipline, and cemented the fact that I wanted to do my own artwork full time. Once I saved up some money, I moved back to Miami in the hopes to show in galleries and eventually be able to do art full time. After a bit of struggle, it worked and I’m happy to be able to create whatever I like now.
I see tree rings, flowers, star constellations, rainbows and sunsets in your work. Are you inspired by nature?
YES! I love the mystery and amazing universal shapes in science and space. It is crazy to think that huge things out in the universe can have the same shapes as tiny microorganisms under a microscope. Also, it is interesting to me how much we still don’t know about science and the way things work. I hope to maybe reveal (on a visual level) some truth or insight about these ideas. I think geometry, nature, and mathematics have everything in common!
Do you have any forthcoming projects on the go?
I’ll have a piece in a group show 40 Under 40 at the Smithsonian Museum of Art: Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC in July. Also I’ll be moving to LA this summer and have a solo show there at Martha Otero in September. Very excited for the future!
What sculpture do you envision when you think of “Wonderland”?
I think extremes in proportion and disorienting colours and patterns. Maybe a vibrant installation experimenting with patterns and perspective in Day-Glo colours.
Words: Heike Wollenweber