Despite constant advances in digital photography and digital editing tools, one senior art student has shown true dedication to the time-tested methods of printmaking.
At first Maya Stern, a student at the University of Rhode Island, said that she “wasn’t a big fan of” Â printmaking, but over time she gained appreciation for it as a “very versatile art form.” That wasn’t the only reason, however, that Stern took up printmaking. Her father is a long-time photographer, and it’s only natural that in her own art she uses photographs as the primary starting point in her prints.
As a child, Stern’s father had his own photography business. In the basement, he had a darkroom and her mom would help him make prints. She also recalled her own childhood experience behind the camera, when her dad would bring her to weddings and give her a camera. But Stern added that, looking back, Â she was “pretty sure there was no film in that camera.”
Stern stays true to artistic tradition not just in carrying on her father’s photography; she also maintains more traditional methods of shooting pictures and printing. She mostly sticks to a 35mm camera, and does most of her printing work in the darkroom (just like her father) rather than in Photoshop.
“I don’t like digital, I never really liked digital … and it takes a lot of brainpower to work with film,” Stern said. Digital, according to Stern, doesn’t give the resulting prints the same kind of character. With film, she enjoys the flaws that are produced during development, and likes the grainy, scratched quality this creates.
The texture of the image, though, is not the only factor in Stern’s preference for film. The multi-step process, the difficulty of manual developing and the many repeated prints of a single image are also important elements.
“I feel significantly more connected to a print I’ve been working on for months,” Stern said.
One of the entirely darkroom photos that Stern is most proud of is titled “O Romeo, Romeo,” pictured above. She recounts the process of finishing that print, adding that she “started at two in the morning, and worked until five or six, took a nap and went to class.”
Because she works so heavily with the more labor-intensive darkroom methods, Stern also remarked on the “crazy amount” of strategy and planning that goes into one print, explaining that it’s something you really have to sit down and think about. Despite all that work, she admits it’s not an exact science.
“It’s sometimes pure chance that what you’re going to do is going to work out,” Stern said. “But I’m not afraid to restart.”
One of Stern’s own favorite pieces that she’s drawn to is entitled “Hypocritical,” an intriguing carved print of a face that makes use of striking color contrast. In terms of the thematic content of her artwork, she stresses the interrelationship between color and concept.
“Color is a big thing, I like mixing color, I like using color,” Stern said. “There’s so much power behind color.”
Looking towards her future in art after she graduates this May, Stern hopes to be accepted into a residency or internship. After that, she said that her main goal would be to get into graduate school for printmaking, since she would like to someday teach at a university.