Center for Creative Photography Acquires the Lynn Stern Archive

The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona Libraries is pleased to announce that it has acquired the photographic archive of Lynn Stern. 

We are delighted that Lynn Stern has chosen the Center for Creative Photography as the permanent home for her archive,” comments Katharine Martinez, the Center’s director. “Lynn is an artist of great depth and accomplishment. Known for her profound imagery and subtle tonality, Lynn Stern’s exquisite prints rank with the best-known photographers of her generation. Her archive will allow researchers, curators, and photographers to better understand the highly disciplined imagination of this extraordinary artist.”

The Lynn Stern Archive contains a complete set of fine prints from all of Stern’s editioned series, as well as her early works, work prints, negatives, correspondence, and annotated library. 

The central concern in Lynn Stern’s work is luminosity. In 1985, she began using a naturally backlit translucent white fabric to convey the essence of light. Unveilings (1985) features flowers juxtaposed with the folds of a glowing white fabric. Whiteness (1987) focuses solely on the purity of light.

Dispossession (1990-1992) is a series of 12 composite works in which human skulls are set against a luminous white fabric, in counterpoint with Stern’s face portrayed as a death mask beneath them. The theme of Dispossession is not actual death, but the mind’s preoccupation with it – the human struggle to cope with mortality. 

The Animus (1995-1997) series, featuring animal skulls, evolved from Dispossession. Creating split-toned negative prints, Stern transformed the luminous white fabric into a rich dark color, causing the animal skulls behind it to come alive in white. In Veiled Still Lifes (1994-2003), Stern photographed vases behind a translucent black fabric, creating a dark, textured luminosity.

In all of her series, the space between objects becomes as important as the objects themselves. Later series – (W)Holes, (1994-2006), Ghost Circles (2004-2007), and Full Circle (2001-2009) – furthered her work with skulls and moved increasingly toward abstraction. 

Five books of Stern’s work have been published: Unveilings (1988), Dispossession (1995), Animus (2000), Veiled Still Lifes (2006), and Frozen Mystery (2010), which accompanied her retrospective exhibition at the Museo Fundación Cristóbal Gabarrón in Spain.

Born in New York City in 1942, Lynn Stern’s aesthetic sensibility was influenced by the collection of abstract expressionist painting and sculpture assembled by her father, David Solinger. She graduated with honors from Smith College, where she majored in English and minored in Music. Hoping to become a film editor, she apprenticed briefly at Ross-Gaffney Films, then married architect Robert A.M. Stern, and worked as his photographic archivist. She became interested in photographic composition while assisting his in-house photographer, Edmund Stoecklein. In 1977, Lynn Stern studied at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City, but soon found herself at odds with a curriculum that was oriented toward photojournalism. She left to study privately with Joseph Saltzer, and then printed with Paul Caponigro, in 1981-1982. Early influences included Caponigro, Edward Weston, and the 19th century American Luminist painters. Later influences include the writings and black paintings of Ad Reinhardt, and the work of Francis Bacon. 

A life-long resident of New York City, Lynn Stern was divorced from Robert A.M. Stern in 1977, and married architect Jeremy Lang in 1980. She has one son, Nicholas, from her first marriage, and three grandchildren. A one-person exhibition of Lynn Stern’s work entitled Signs Half Seen is currently on view in New York at Peter Findlay Gallery, March 1 – April 12 (16 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075 / 212.644.4433 ).

Release date: 
Friday, March 23, 2012