In Conversation with Jen Stark cover photo


In Conversation with Jen Stark

by Jeff Davis

Jen Stark is a visual artist inspired by natural systems like plant growth, evolution, infinity, fractals, mimetic topographies, and sacred geometries. She works across many forms of media, from paintings, sculptures, animations, and installations to interactive projections and NFTs. Recently included as one of Fortune's "NFTy 50," Stark made history in March 2021 as the first female artist to make Foundation's top 10 highest selling NFT creatives. I had an opportunity to catch up with Jen in advance of her upcoming Art Blocks project Vortex.
Jeff Davis: Hi Jen! It was great to connect last week in Miami. So let’s start at the beginning: How did you first get into making art?
Jen Stark: My grandpa was a hobby artist, photographer and also a reporter for the Miami Herald, so I inherited my creativity and love of nature from him. When I was very young, he would invite me over to watercolor paint with him and would take me to botanical gardens and the Everglades. I’m also lucky my parents supported my passion for art, and would enroll me into art classes. In Miami I grew up practicing art in some great magnet public schools that really set the foundation for my practice.
Jen Stark, Cascade- A Jen Stark Experience, 2021. .jpeg
Jen Stark, Cascade: A Jen Stark Experience, 2021.
JD: And I take it that lead you to study art more seriously and pursue it as a career?
JS: Yes, having family encouragement to pursue my passion was incredibly important and allowed me to hone in on my craft. Having their moral support and guidance for applying to magnet art schools and art colleges was really important for helping me focus on my path.
Jen Stark, Cosmic Distortion
Jen Stark, Cosmic Distortion, 2012.
JD: How would you say your creative practice has changed over time?
JS: My creative practice has evolved from hand-crafted techniques to embracing more digital techniques and fabrication. Early on, all my artwork was very time-intensive and all hand-made. I would sit for hours in my studio cutting paper by hand with an X-ACTO knife, constructing complex sculptures. Moving to Los Angeles, has helped open my world up to the beauty of fabrication and using more durable materials like metal and wood. I’ve embraced creating artwork with the computer more even though I still create work by hand, like acrylic paintings and murals. I still like being able to get my hands dirty. Also, I try to give myself more time off now, because I know down-time helps foster creativity and inspiration. It helps me return to the studio with a fresh perspective.
JD: Then how did you discover NFTs / crypto art?
JS: I dipped my toes in investing in some cryptocurrencies last year and first heard about NFTs in February through a few digital artist/animator friends. It was very exciting to finally see digital artists being able to support themselves with their craft. In the past, my animations and digital art were almost impossible to sell unless it was for commercial uses. With NFT’s the element of artist autonomy was very appealing to me. Especially in the fine art world, with secondary auctions the artist doesn’t see any royalties from sales of their work. And sometimes even have trouble collecting their payments of primary sales of artwork. The blockchain puts this power directly into the artists hands. Another exciting part of this world is the community and all the new virtual and IRL friends and collectors I’ve made through crypto.
Jen Stark, Cube, 2021..jpeg
Jen Stark, Cube, 2021.
JD: That’s great. I agree the new economy and community being built around NFTs is pretty remarkable. Do you have any recent accomplishments you’d like to share?
JS: This summer I created a solo show in NYC called “Cascade” which was a 6,000 square foot installation of interactive projections and 3-D mapped environments. As visitors entered the six-room installation, they were able to touch and activate different visual and musical elements projected on the walls and floor. It was my most ambitious project to date and we’re planning to travel it around the US. I also currently have a solo show up in Los Angeles at Wilding Cran Gallery, which features multiple works of fine art like a pulsating led sculpture, paintings, multi-colored neon sculptures as well as a one-room interactive projection installation. This show runs through December 23.
JD: From what I’ve seen online, all that stuff looks amazing. OK, let’s get into Art Blocks. Your project is clearly created in your unique style, but could you speak a little more about the inspiration?
JS: This series is inspired by elements in the natural world: geodes, evolution, color theory, topography and sacred geometries. I wanted to translate my earlier signature, hand-cut vortex paper sculptures, into works of art through code. I love how the simple mathematic techniques I used to create these sculptures were able to be digitally translated through harmonic sine waves and am really happy with the result.
Jen Stark, Vortex, 2021..jpeg
Jen Stark, Vortex, 2021.
JD: What should collectors look for in your Art Blocks project as the series is revealed?
JS: Collectors will be able to look for varieties in color, movement and light pulsations. They will be able to drag the shapes to view the 3-dimensionality of each tunnel. There will be some really unique and rare ones that I think will be a big hit.
JD: Anything else people should know to better understand your art?
JS: Yes, my love of vivid colors are a direct conversation with the natural world; the attractant/repellent properties of flowers encouraging pollination or insects warning birds of their poisonous traits, and the luminous mystery of phosphorescent sea creatures. Like how a red berry encourages you to come eat it with its bright red color, or a poisonous dart frog is telling you to stay back with its technicolored patterns. I’m also fascinated by color theory and the juxtaposition of different colors that create surprising visual effects.
Jen Stark, Meltdown, 2014, Miami International Airport..jpeg
Jen Stark, Meltdown, 2014, Miami International Airport.
JD: Your love of vivid colors is clearly apparent in your art! What’s the best way for people to keep up with your work?
JS: Twitter, Instagram, and my website!

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