“What my work is most critical of is the inherent inclination toward pornographic (or at least porn-adjacent) representations of women throughout cyberspace. As our virtual selves become ever-more inextricable from our physical selves, I’m interested in how the preferences of the programmers are imposed on virtual female bodies within the largely male-dominated arena of software and technology.”
– Emma Stern in conversation with Evan Malachosky, Cool Hunting, 2019.
Emma Stern (b. 1992) is a painter based in Brooklyn, New York. Combining a commitment for traditional painting techniques with a millennial interest in digital media and gaming, Stern explores notions of gender, pornography and identity in the community of avatars. Employing traditional techniques including monochromatic underpainting and the chiaroscuro of the Old Masters, while using virtual 3D programmes and models, she refreshes portraiture with a sharp feminist touch.
“Emma Stern uses a unique animation technique in her work to diffuse the potential stigma behind hypersexualized avatars so often seen in video games, and often bleeding into 3D pornography.” – Emma Grayson, Art of Choice, 2020.
Borrowing from the visual vocabulary of online niche subcultures such as fursonas, fandom and 3D erotica, Stern critically plays around the pornographic representation of women in the virtual world. Of particular interest to Stern is how certain female tropes are exacerbated in the arena of gaming and softwares in order to please the sexual desires of their (mostly) male developers and users.
“There are recurring female archetypes that appear all throughout history but are especially pronounced in the world of 3d fandom and pornography: the cheerleader, the cowgirl, the pin-up girl, the bimbo, the secretary, the girl next door… and then when you start involving all these niche internet/gamer subcultures, you get these fantasy elements and wind up with the slutty elf, sexy centaur, warrior princess, etc. All these characters are are recognizable even if you’ve never seen them before, so they have their own narratives in a way because they are archetypal.” –Emma Stern, De:Formal, 2020.
Emma Stern (b. 1992) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute’s School of Painting.
Recent solo shows include ‘Slow Fade’, The Newsstand Project, Los Angeles (2020); ‘Works’, Jorge Andrew Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2017); ‘Tabs’, Stream Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2015). Stern has an upcoming solo show at Carl Kostyál, London in May 2021 and a solo show at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm in November 2021.
Recent group show include ‘Stockholm Sessions’, Carl Kostyál, Stockholm (2021); ‘Resting Point of Accommodation’, Almine Rech, Brussels (2021); ‘The Artist is Online’, Konig Gallery, Berlin (2021); ‘Friend Zone’, Half Gallery, New York (2021); ‘06’, PM/AM, London (2020); ‘Escapism’, Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York (2020); ‘American Woman’, Allouche Benias Gallery, Athens, Greece (2020).