Q&A with Aidan Stern
What drew you to WashU?
I was initially drawn to WashU because of the flexibility in courses and freedom to explore studying in different schools throughout the University, even as an art student. It is such a unique opportunity to meaningfully engage in the breadth of studies offered at WashU, and it has truly been critical in shaping my artistic practice. However, it wasn’t until I arrived at WashU that I realized its biggest asset is our wonderful community of thinkers, artists, researchers, and more. Ultimately, it was this incredible community that I met when I visited as an admitted student that kept me here.
What interests you most about your studies in art?
What has interested me most in my studies has been learning new methods and ways of making. I’ve been introduced most recently to metal and digital fabrication, which has opened so many new creative opportunities. Sam Fox has provided me with access to the largest variety of materials and creative resources I have ever had. It has been so inspiring to be introduced to—and slowly begin to master—these new processes under the guidance of experts in the field. I have also been so inspired when working on something new collaboratively with peers and learning from them. I feel honored and privileged to be surrounded by such inspiring and talented individuals.
Tell us about your work—what are you making right now? What types of projects or topics most interest you?
My favorite art to experience is outdoor public sculpture, which is my most recent creative focus. I really aspire to create works that are visually intriguing but not distracting. I typically take on large-scale projects, my most recent two sculptures each being between 8 and 10 feet tall. I have loved bringing my work into the semi-public eye and displaying it around the Sam Fox School portion of campus. It has been a great experience to get feedback from the community and see how the work stands on its own outside of the studio.
Conceptually, a lot of my most recent work has focused on our relationship with our bodies. I specifically have been working in the overlap of the ideal, scientific, and medical sense of our bodies. As a student, my work tends to ask a lot more questions than it provides answers. The questions my work currently asks are “what are we?” and “how does that understanding of ‘what’ we are inform who we are?” The pandemic really prompted me to look inside, and I have found so much inspiration from the complexities of the human body.
What led you to pursue studies in studio art and pre-med? How do your pre-med courses inform your artwork?
I really love this question. I find that Art and Medicine overlap in so many ways, and my love for both the arts and sciences naturally led me to this path. It was early during the pandemic that I began to seriously consider pursuing a career in medicine. I knew that with enough drive and support, I would be able to pursue art and medicine. My pre-medical courses have given me such a deep fascination with the complexities of the human body. I am constantly blown away by what humanity has learned about the inner workings of our bodies, organisms, and the universe. It has compelled me to share what I’ve learned through my artwork and hopefully evoke similar responses from my viewers. Without a doubt these foundational pre-medical classes have influenced my art to its core.
What’s been the most memorable course or project you’ve completed in the Sam Fox School?
By far my most memorable course was 3D studio with Arny Nadler. 3D studio was my first introduction to sculptural practices and completely changed my creative output. The group final for the course was an “Arny-mover,” designed to transport our professor through space. Three groups built different projects based off a general theme. The theme for our class was “Camp Food,” and my team built a super-sized Happy Meal. The burger, fries, and drink fit together into a rolling cart. It was because of his studio that I shifted my creative focus and major from communication design to sculpture.
What have you learned as an art student that you’d be most lost without?
This is another fantastic question! I have found working in a studio environment akin to working in a chemistry lab (perhaps even more difficult!); It requires an immense amount of endurance and patience with yourself. Working in the studio presents numerous challenges—mental, physical, practical—to overcome. My resilience to setbacks, optimism, and drive have all become strengths of mine thanks to the many hours I have spent in studio. I have grown tremendously because of studio, and I believe a lot of other people could benefit from the experience of a studio, as well.
What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
There are so many things I have come to love about St. Louis: the Cardinals, toasted ravs, the Arch. However, my favorite thing about St. Louis is the variety of parks! I try to escape to Forest Park as often as I can, but I have also found many hidden gems in the small parks around St. Louis. Laumeier Sculpture Park is another one of my favorites—I have been so inspired by the works on display.
What do you like to do away from studio?
Outside of studio, I’m president of All Student Theatre, one of the three student theater groups on campus, and the vice president of the WashU Powerlifting Team. I also really enjoy going on bike rides through Forest Park, performing on stage, and playing with my kitty, Aku.
Work by Aidan Stern
*at first sight*
*inside and out*
*inside and out* (detail)