"Jen Stark’s Colors of Consciousness"
A studio visit with photographer Pat Martin
Interview by Annisha Lashan
Read the whole interview HERE
Miami-born, LA-based contemporary artist Jen Stark burst into popularity through her recent collaboration with Miley Cyrus and Wayne Coyne on the music video “Lighter.” Working with ecstatic color palettes, there’s a galvanizing subtext of psychedelic shamanism and dimensional of consciousness interwoven through every piece. Articulating her style by layering colored paper in repetition, she turns two-dimensional material into three-dimensional sculptures. It’s an artform Jen fell into by happenstance during a brief semester abroad in the south of France, when construction paper was all she could afford. Fueled by a love and deep fulfilment from the process, Stark continued into what is now a very successful career, with major solo exhibits across North America. With boundless curiosity and a sense of wonder for the intangible, Stark offers an eloquent opinion on art as a method of meditation and on finding balance as a modern-day artist.
“I’ve always had a deep fascination for nature and how it relates to science and spirituality.”
On transcendence through art. For me, the act and process of creating art is just as important as the final product. My art practice is very meditative and brings me to a trance-like state when I’m creating – especially with very repetitive tasks. Art is an expression of my inner fantasies, dreams and thoughts. Creating art pushes me to brainstorm and challenge myself, which is very therapeutic and helps me understand myself better. With much of my work, I’m diving into questions about the universe and consciousness and trying to understand what it is all about and why it exists. I’m trying to reach that transcendental state through artwork.
For Jen, nature inspires. Much of my work is inspired by the natural world. In nature, color is a way to get someone’s attention – from a poisonous frog warning a predator off with its vibrant color patterns, to a ripe, red berry ready to be eaten. To me, color brings a sense of awe and wonder. I’ve always had a deep fascination for nature and how it relates to science and spirituality. I feel there is a parallel between different shapes within our universe: like how the Fibonacci spiral equation relates to so many things in nature – from the shape of shell to how a fern unfurls. Sacred geometry is a big inspiration in my work. Lately, the psychedelic world and the mysteries of consciousness are things that have been most prevalent in my work and thoughts. Through my work, I’m trying to create a bridge between all these magical things, and hopefully, make a great discovery or inspire others.
“Working with Miley Cyrus was a fun cosmic coincidence…”
On her process. Typically, I sit down at my studio desk and begin sketching ideas in my sketchbook. I write down lots of words in addition to images. Then, once I pin down a favorite idea, I’ll begin to create it. If it is a paper sculpture, I’ll cut each layer out by hand with an exacto knife and sequentially put it together. If it is a painting, I’ll hand-sketch the lines with a pencil, then mark what each color should be with a tiny dot. Then, I’ll have assistants help me color them in. Much of my work is very labor-intensive, so process is a big part of it.
On the career of a modern day artist. Today’s art world seems very different than it used to be. Artists can have more freedom now and write their own rules. The internet definitely helps by connecting people to each other. I balance both the art and business side and realize both are important to keep growing and being able to do exactly what I want to do. I think it’s important to be able to fund the work but not create work that is purely a commodity. I think it’s important to create great work that challenges and inspires. As long as I am creating work that I believe in and am inspired by, I feel like others will see its importance and the business side will in turn follow.
On gaining popularity. Working with Miley Cyrus was a fun cosmic coincidence. I had met her one night through my friend Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), and a couple of days later, MTV was pitching my work to her for the VMAs. It felt like it was meant to be and was a good psychedelic match. She has a very creative vision and is a free spirit who speaks her mind and knows what she wants. That project was surreal and really helped my art grow and think outside of the box. I’ve had a lot more eyes on my work because of that exposure, which has been amazing.