Images courtesy of the artist

In conversation with New York-based artist Emma Stern who skillfully combines oil painting with 3D software creating futuristic large-scale works.

BP  Before we really knew each other I
 read your bio text on instagram and it made me laugh.
ES  Like my pics or I’ll kill myself… which Instagram later flagged and then disabled my account for promoting self-harm and/or suicide. I was devastated. I think it’s mostly bots doing the flagging these days, but you can contest it and have a human review the situation. Eventually I was reinstated so I guess the review panel decided I was way too much of a narcissist to ever actually harm myself.
BP  The bot couldn’t tell that you were intentionally being provocative.
ES  It’s coming. There’s a whole field of study trying to program common sense into AI right now, hopefully they program sardonic wit into them too.
BP  Do you imagine that robots or AI
 would ever put you out of a job as a painter?
ES  Yeah, eventually. They already have AI making art. Did you see Google DeepDream? Or there is that AI making “new” Rembrandt paintings.
BP  Of course a computer might be smarter than you, but it doesn’t have your level of damage and vulnerability. I
t reminds me of Lisa Yuskavage saying how in the end our mistakes are the only things we can truly claim as our own.
ES  But you could also make a “mind file” of me, which contains all of my memories and all of my “damage”, and digitize that and just keep it on a hard drive… Do you remember at the mall there used to be these kiosks that were like a photo booth you could go into and a robot would draw you? We had one next to Dip ’n Dots at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison New Jersey.

“I remember even from a very young age being fascinated by the creation story. I couldn’t wrap my head around how there was nothing and then all of a sudden something.”


BP  Let’s talk about Beeple? I
 think he sold an NFT last year for 69 million dollars.
ES  He’s one of the godfathers of the 3D Art Community, he used to make a lot of resources available to people online so you could back engineer his art. I downloaded his VJ files when I was first learning how to use 3D, pulling them apart and seeing the guts was very helpful to me.
BP  So Beeple was essentially posting the recipes to his art-making it sounds like. How did you decide you were going to be a 3D painter?
ES  When I graduated from Pratt in 2014 I had been exclusively doing figure painting and also working as a figure model at Cooper Union. I knew I wanted to paint female bodies, but particularly the female body in the context of the artist and the muse as it appears throughout art history. Like the way the surrealists essentially invented these generic, depersonalized female protagonists who recur in their work as creatures made to exist only in painted form. So when I got out of art school, I’d lost that resource of a human coming to pose for me in the classroom which is when I decided to start making my own models. I thought it would be cool to use the avatars I’d built in lieu of figure models, creating my own muses and inverting that art historical dynamic.


Read the full interview on Muse February Issue 59.

Blossom (baggage), 2021

“Painting can be a religious experience. I’d like to think the light in my paintings is divine.”


Blossom (extra dirty), 2021
Nina (roller girl), 2021


Michael Kagan


In conversation with New York-based artist Michael Kagan, who shares an eclectic artistic activity.

His dramatic paintings depict humans pushing the limits of nature through physical stamina and technology.