A vibrant condensation of fantastical figures, nude humanoids, and a unique brand of web-enabled surrealism only begin to characterize the paintings of Emma Stern. Only a few years out of her BFA program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Stern already seems to have a focused and distinct style and approach to making her work, which involves creating renderings in digital sculpting programs like Cinema 4D and translating her creations into painted renditions.
Although her work functions well as a cohesive whole, it also begs the question of what inspires her to paint such disparate figures like melting flamingos, a close-up detail of someone with braces, and her repetitive use of hairless, nude women donning devil horns and elongated tails.
“I am in many ways making paintings about my experience using the Internet,” Stern explains to The Creators Project. “I like to fall down these deep digital rabbit holes surfing the Web, and while I’m down there, I like to collect ephemera, to bring back artifacts in the form of downloaded .jpegs and 3D .obj files. The flamingo and the image of the braces are examples of ‘souvenirs’ I’ve brought back with me from my digital vacations.”
But the aforementioned hairless, horned woman bares a different and special significance to Stern. She is “a generic protagonist I created to live in the spaces I make. I’ve begun affectionately referring to her as Lava Baby because she can take any form; sometimes she has horns, sometimes a tail, sometimes she is more than one figure and sometimes not a figure at all,” Stern remarks. “I’m sure the idea of her stems from an interest in transhumanism, but Lava Baby is not so much a human as she is an embodiment of the limitless potential of the digital realm.”