Borrowing from the visual vocabulary of online niche subcultures such as fursonas, fandom and 3D erotica, Emma Stern plays with the quasi-pornographic representation of women in the virtual world, combining traditional painterly techniques such as monochromatic underpainting and chiaroscuro with virtual 3D programmes and modelling to create eerily anonymous, finely-worked ‘portraits’, reclaiming these man-made avatars for the female domain.
“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.
“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, the warrior princess and so on. All these characters are recognisable 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, New York. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute’s School of Painting.
Recent solo shows include ‘Revenge Body’, Carl Kostyál, London (2021); ‘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, Stockholm in November 2021.
Recent group shows 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) and ‘American Woman’, Allouche Benias Gallery, Athens, Greece (2020).