news drawing sculpture assemblage writing bio press photo photo


click here to download a pdf version of this statement
see the "Life During Wartime" drawings

Images of the 1940’s have long played a subtle but important role in my artwork. My father was a World War Two veteran, along with most of the other fathers I knew, and the era infused my life a child of the 1950’s and 1960s. My friends and I acted out big “combat” battles in our street games; I wanted to be an army nurse when I grew up.

For many years I have collected and worked with images from Life Magazines, produced during the 1940’s. From advertisements urging support of the war effort, to articles, drawings, recipes, and photos expressive of ideals of family, motherhood, neighborhood, and success, I have been fascinated by the world portrayed in Life magazine. Both the optimism and the anxiety seem light years away, yet strangely familiar to 2008. Recently I have begun to use these images in collages about family, nation, relationships and childhood.

Over the years my work has dealt with interpersonal dynamics, set within their larger social context: One-on-one relationships, family groupings, schoolyard politics- the intimacy, the loneliness, the humor, the outright oddity of various combinations of people, large and small. All of my pieces share this thematic thread. The dramas that make up my work are individual, yet societal. Gender, relationships and broader social dynamics and history are all intertwined. The personal is the political.

Each work is a fragment of a story rather than its full text. I never "write" the endings; each viewer finishes the script, bringing his or her own history, memories and feelings to complete the piece.

Melissa Stern

December 2008