About a year ago, Lindsay Stern was shocked to discover she’d been awarded WSW’s Ora Schneider Residency for regional artists—initially because it would be her first residency, but also because she was 10 weeks pregnant. The symbiotic relationship between herself and her son Henry, now a flirtatious four month old, has come to quite literally govern her entire life and has left an indelible mark on her work and her practice.
“I had an incredibly hard time preparing for this residency because I was having a baby!” says Lindsay. “It’s crazy to do this now when he’s so young, but it’s forced me to make the most of the time I have. I have to let things evolve and not put a lot of pressure on myself to be super prolific.”
Since getting married and going to graduate school, Lindsay’s work has addressed our fraught relationship to food and eating; food is equally “a necessity, joy, and transgression”. She’s interested in the way we live our emotional and social lives in kitchens, in the ways we relate to both our cultural and our personal food consumption. She initially proposed developing a series of screenprints building on recent work that explores the violence and compassion inherent in the relationships between humans and farmed animals.
But then there was Henry. Now, a parent/supplier and child/consumer theme is figuring prominently into Lindsay’s prints. A pregnant woman (with a spiked, crown-like picket fence for a head) cradles poultry above her belly, as yellow baby chicks chirp around her feet. A girl with a cupcake headpiece breastfeeds a calf.
“This is not what I envisioned I would be making during this residency, and I attribute that entirely to Henry and to becoming a food supplier myself,” Lindsay says. “It’s completely influenced how I think about food and what I put in my own mouth.”
The prints are also a departure in process. Lindsay’s practice is steeped in collage and drawing; she sources images primarily from mid-century cookbooks and rescue manuals and then combines these elements with observational drawings, playing uncannily with scale and gesture. For this project the imagery in her prints began as discrete, disparate elements, which Lindsay assembled and reassembled for over ten months to prepare her transparencies. And although wrestling with a new process has been a challenge, it’s producing an effect Lindsay responds to.
“I love how the ink sits on this paper,” Lindsay explains. She’s using a medium weight, pinky-cream Stonehenge that she chose for its fleshiness. “It doesn’t really soak in, it just lays right on top. It’s like you’re getting a thin layer of—well, of collage,” she laughs.
The resulting prints are graphic, sparse compositions that retain much of the collage sensibility she loves: flat swaths of color rest next to wallpaper-like patterned fields, alongside fantastical drawings of human-animal hybrids and interspersed with unexpected pops of domestic illustrations. If the combinations seem a little humorous, that’s just another way they address the binaries Lindsay is interested in. Lindsay is highly influenced by dadaists like Hannah Hoch and Max Ernst, whose work in collage and photomontage incorporates an absurd, uncanny tension between the disparate elements and the assembled whole.
“My work is funny but then also more unsettling the longer you look at it, and that’s the whole point. There’s an interplay at odds with itself—just like how our relationship with food is very pleasurable yet we so often have negative or anxious feelings about it.”
Lindsay’s residency was four weeks long, but she split her time between her residency, her baby, and her job as the Education Coordinator at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. Her residency work was largely accomplished by “never sitting down, except for at lunch.” Lindsay produced a suite of seven prints, each in an edition of 10, and is satisfied with what she was able to accomplish in only 16 days—a number of which were spent with Henry strapped to her chest in a baby carrier.
“Being an artist is really rewarding, and being a mom is really rewarding. It will be interesting to see how my work and my motherhood continue to evolve,” says Lindsay. “I hope I’m able to let them grow together. If I don’t make work for a long period of time, I get kind of itchy. Henry will just be another thing to juggle.”
Lindsay Stern is a Kingston-based visual artist, art administrator and educator. She holds an MFA in Fine Arts and a certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Michigan and her work is in numerous private collections as well as at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and Alfred University. It is no surprise that Lindsay loved WSW’s daily potluck lunches; she recently wowed us with a gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate pie. See more of her work at www.lindsaystern.com.