Local Artist Speaks at Grubbs Gallery

"Tiepolo's Dream," by Stern

“The only way for me to know what I’m doing, and do it again, is to let chance come into the equation,” said Northampton artist Chuck Stern.  This may sound contradictory, but, in his work, Stern puts emphasis on the evolving nature of creativity.

“Often it’s the things that are so beautiful that create a block,” he said.  Likening his painting process to writing Stern said, “Sometimes you put a sentence down, and it’s so cool, and you just want it there but the whole rest of the story is stuck with this sentence that has no relationship.”

The “blocking” imagery is covered in his art with white paint and then erased, to let the life of the painting continue.  But if you look closely, Stern leaves the white paint light enough to, “let the history of the painting show through,” he said.

“I like the way he describes his process so well, and encourages students to slow down and think of their work in terms of visual ‘problems’ to be solved,” said Natania Hume, Grubbs Gallery curator and a member of the Fine and Performing Arts faculty.

When Stern paints he approaches the canvas by asking himself, “What’s next?”  In the end he likes his paintings to be cohesive, but during the creative process he views his work as puzzles with a life of their own, he said.

Stern described the way he navigates his paintings as similar to camping before the invention of GPS and cell phones.  One student said he liked, “how [Stern) lets go and sees where the painting takes him.”

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