Chuck Stern: Selections: 1985-2010
February 1- March 11, 2010
Reception and Gallery Conversation:
Wednesday, March 10, 11-1pm
Holyoke Community College
Tabor Art Gallery
303 Homestead Avenue
Holyoke, MA 01040
413-552-2614 (Call ahead for
gallery hours) .
Statement: Holyoke Community College; Feb. 2010.
This mid career retrospective offers me a unique opportunity to assess
the changes, similarities and the growth of my work over the past 25
years. And although my work has finally evolved from narrative to abstract
and from political/philosophical to visual and visceral, there remains
I find, threads of continuity. There is the power of the line - my love
of drawing remains undiminished. And pattern - whether in nature, the
artistic, or the inadvertent. And, of course, texture - both for its
tactile quality and it’s engagement with uncomprehending beams
But above all, there remains my awe and naked jealousy of nature’s
artistic abilities. From the beginning, I have attempted to co-opt her
into my work by continuing to push technique beyond my control. I’ve
layered paints and canvasses, mixed wax and sand in the paints, slowed
the shutter on my camera, and shot without composing. And I finally
moved on to clay where control is almost impossible (for me) and firing
the work in a soda kiln inevitably gives nature the final say. The process
is exciting, the results are decidedly mixed, but there is often serendipitous
success that would never have happened without this primordial assistance.
And there have been changes. Beyond the obvious changes in media and
narrative, the greatest changes have happened in my intentions, my ambitions
and what I hope to communicate. I’ve come to believe that while
the largest and the loudest get the lion’s share of attention
in politics, the art world or the garden, it is the work of subtlety
that offers the greatest opportunity of quiet growth and enrichment.
Perhaps it’s just my age talking, but for me, less is now more
and a rich engagement with just one person trumps the fleeting, passing
glance of the crowd.
It’s been a great run so far and I feel there’s something
just beyond my sightline urging me to keep this expedition going. So
on it goes.
5 - Nov 11, 2009
THE EAST WING GALLERY
Raymond M. Lafontaine
Fine Arts Center
Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Mount Wachesett Community College
Gardner MA 01440
Oct. 3 - Nov 9, 2008
Please join us for the opening reception with the artist:
Oct. 11, 5-8 pm
Chuck comments on the work:
I came to clay by way of woodworking, painting and photography.
And as time consuming as the others were to learn, clay seems to me
the most difficult medium to assimilate - it’s simply the most
willful of the bunch. A teacher of mine, Sadashi Inazuka said, “Chuck,
the clay is 10,000 years old - it knows more than you do.” And
while it may seem a quaint homily (it did to me at the time), it turns
out that the only pieces I feel have any satisfying qualities are the
ones I didn’t try to beat into submission. The results were far
more satisfying when I was patient enough to catch the hints the clay
was giving - when I was calm enough to step back and see/feel the next
And because I’m forced (?!) to slow down and spend time out of
my usual head chatter, clay has allowed me to plumb deeper into the
unknown. To create something that I had not seen before hand - that
my hand saw before my brain. It’s a real gift of the medium.
So part of the goal is simply to learn how to work with this wonder-full
stuff. It seems akin to learning a foreign language; first the teachers
(great local potters) give you vocabulary, then sentences and then some
phrases. Then you put together a combination of colloquial phrases,
find some inflection or rhythm. Then you expand your vocabulary with
success and beautiful serendipitous mistakes. You begin to acquire the
tools that form the basis of your ability to communicate. You begin
to trust your understanding - and your work expands into that trust.
Like language, it is finally only developed from time spent using it.
Clay and work are the ultimate teachers.
Part of the goal is to make artifacts that sit in the room like the
interesting stranger you hope to meet at a party - fine looking, a colorful
story-teller and a good listener. One who keeps you entertained with
new ideas and interesting takes on old ones. But even the works that
turn out shy or obtuse should mean well and have enough character to
amply repay your efforts to get to know them. It would be wonderful
to make something that adds a bit of respite from the everyday internal
conversation and leaves you feeling better after your encounter. But
short of that, I would hope they would lend some sweetness to the ether.
And the final part is wondering where this stuff will take me tomorrow
These pieces are the result of a search for an unknown, satisfying form
within the constraints of the available technical tools, a lifelong
cache of visual patterns, and the emotional wiring that drives me forward
and holds me back.
My work is predominantly coil built and soda fired, often multiple times
in a cross-draft kiln. It is fired to 2300 f, with the soda added at
about 2200 f for about an hour.
The Artisan Gallery
Northampton, Ma 01060