From his studio in Dania Beach, Florida, Rob Stern creates his signature Windstar sculptures, dedicated to his father, a consummate stargazer fascinated by cosmic phenomena. Stern was also inspired by his surname, which means star in German. The artist often names his stars to reveal their celestial spheres. Copernica is derived from Copernicus, visible in the evening sky over Miami Beach. Polaris, known as the North Star, is the brightest in the constellation of Ursa Minor. Antares is the 15th brightest star in the night sky and is part of the constellation Scorpius. Other Windstar titles conjure colors and experiences, such as Red Dawn, which takes its name from a glowing red center or Modra, the Czech word for blue. Stern’s Windstars are a testament to his deep understanding of glass and belief that the material takes him where it wants to go during the making process.
Another iconic body of work, Stern’s Stilettos, was inspired by his wife’s vast collection of designer shoes that includes Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, and Alexander McQueen. However, these glass slippers are even more extreme with wild bejeweled designs that could make even Lady Gaga swoon.
Stern states: “My creative endeavors and sculptures are mere stepping stones towards my search for understanding life. Harmonic instances between what I sense and do are the signals that guide me through my processes and prompt daily decisions. My works act as a communicative device which seeks to connect my thoughts and my actions to the collective human consciousness. A path seeking insight and enlightenment carries me forwards and always seems to bring me back to the glass.”
His mother an art teacher and father a filmmaker, Stern attended Northside High School for Performing Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was part of an elite group that performed internationally. He later pursued visual arts, receiving a BFA from San Francisco State University (1989) and an MFA from the University of Miami (2003). Other glass training includes a five-year apprenticeship with John Lewis Glass, Oakland, California, where he trained to be a metal fabricator and expert glass caster/cold-worker. Stern went on to assist Czech master Petr Novotny and worked in the Czech glass factories as a designer/maker for two years. The artist also assisted or collaborated with many masters such as Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Martin Blank, Richard Royal, Richard Jolley, Dante Marioni, Therman Statom, Stanislav Libensky, Rene Roubicek, and Vladimir Klien, among many others.
Lecturing at the University of Miami for 10 years, Stern also acted as interim professor at University of Texas Arlington in 2009. He has frequented the premier glass institutions, most notably Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, for a 30-year consecutive run where he has taught, been a gaffer, TA, AA, and worked with the most notable international artists. Dedicated to education, the artist has also taught at the Corning Museum of Glass, New York; the Penland School of Craft, North Carolina; The Glass Furnace, Istanbul, Turkey; Bildwerk Frauenau, Germany; and Ways of Glass, Czech Republic. Stern designed and created many centerpiece collections for various institutions including Pilchuck in 2011, and he received the Amazon award for his Pilchuck auction piece in 2021. This year he has a prominent piece in Pilchuck’s October Auction.
Currently involved in long-term residencies at YZ Center for the Arts, China, and Bezaiten Arts Center in Lake Worth, Florida, Stern will serve as the future director of glass at The Dania Art Park, now in development. Meanwhile he and his team design and create original sculpture, architectural commissions, and unique lighting that has been commissioned, exhibited, and collected internationally. Recently, the artist participated in Habatat Gallery’s Glass 51 exhibition, and several of his works were acquired by Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Eighty of his pieces have become part of the permanent collection of the Weiner Museum of Decorative Arts (WMODA), Dania Beach, Florida.
Says Stern: “My aesthetic resides at the crossroads where humans and nature intersect. Between organic and angular, a space connects the temporary man-made to the pre-existing and eternal cosmos. Here, we begin to measure our perspective and contemplate the perception of our place in the world as it is one that is always changing with the evolution of space, light, and time. I venture to capture moments with materials that speak to a fleeting sensibility of the permanence or importance of this balancing act. Color and form dictate emotion, and humanity is transcended as we reflect in the inherent rhythm and fractal patterning in this natural world. My constant observation of details persuades my attention to nuances in an attempt to mimic the complexity of its simplicity.”
Stern’s work will be exhibited at Kittrell Riffkind in Dallas, Texas, in April 2024.