Interview with Pia Stern 2/19/2021
Pia Stern received her MA and MFA from UC Berkeley. During those years, she was greatly influenced by several artists who were integral to the Bay Area Figurative Movement including Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, Joan Brown, and, most notably, Elmer Bischoff, with whom she worked very closely.
Pia moved from the Bay Area to Honolulu, where she served as affiliate graduate faculty at The University of Hawai’i for eleven years. Her work is held in galleries, museums, public and private collections nationwide, and has been critically acclaimed in newspapers, books, and journal reviews. She currently lives, works, and surfs in San Diego.
Tell us about a project (or projects) you are working on.
Currently, I am at a dead stand-still in the studio. This, primarily due to a series of family losses. I miss being engaged with my work, and it is my hope that this ‘silence’ will soon lift.
How has this ongoing pandemic affected your work/practice?
Initially, the pandemic served as a tremendous impetus. Surrounded by so much fear and sickness – all I wanted to do was to focus on beauty and life itself. Suddenly, a series of totally unexpected paintings made their appearance – still life paintings of flowers, no less. I had never done anything like this before, and for an ‘abstract painter,’ this came as quite a shocker. But so it was – and I was off on a tear. And I love nothing more than being on a tear.
When did your journey as an art maker/administrator/etc. begin?
My intention was to graduate from U.C. Berkeley, go to law school, and become a trial lawyer. However, I left school for a year to live in France. During that time, I took a painting class; the class and the instructors got under my skin. I returned to Berkeley as a senior and decided to try another painting class, just in case…And so that was that. I did a big U-turn and for better or for worse, never looked back.
What/who are some of your greatest influences?
As a student at Berkeley, the Bay Area artists were clearly influential. But certainly, my mentor Elmer Bischoff had the greatest impact on me of all. It was not only his teaching that left such a deep mark, but it was also his strong belief in me as a painter. The value of his faith in me would be impossible to overstate. Another icon of mine was and is Philip Guston. What courage he had – to remain true to his vision despite the art world’s abject rejection of his work. However, I have always been extremely interested in and curious about many artists past and present, from all sorts of different disciplines and backgrounds.
Lastly, is there any advice or wisdom you’d like to provide to rising artists/arts leaders?
The art world is extremely mercurial. Do not expect material rewards or recognition for your work. Make art because you love the process. Make art because you must.
You can find Pia online via: piastern.com