Artists Mike and Doug Starn share DNA, inspiration for artwork

Artists Doug and Mike Starn spoke with art critic about their artistic journey with Jason Kaufman for their Bienneal Allbritton Artist Conversation at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 in Roxy Grove Hall. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Cassidy Pate | Reporter

The Allbritton Art Institute hosted artists Doug and Mike Starn alongside art critic Jason Kaufman for their Bienneal Allbritton Artist Conversation at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Roxy Grove Hall.

The Allbritton Art Institute was established in 1998 and has funded travel and undergraduate scholarships, as well as frequent visits to Baylor from artists and lecturers.

Kaufman, a world-renowned arts journalist and critic, introduced the identical Starn twins who were born in small town in New Jersey in 1961. Kaufman described how they became well-known in the art world because of their collaborations on architecture, sculpture and photography.

“We decided we were going to be artists when we were 13,” Doug Starn said, “and that was it.”

Following their middle-class upbringing, the Starns were drawn to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where they could freely grow alongside their peers in a creative and encouraging environment.

Kaufman then transitioned into a chronological slideshow of the Starns’ artwork. Beginning with photographs of major works of artists such as Lionel Da Vinci, the brothers found new ways to represent masterpieces.

“To us, there’s no one right way of doing anything, it’s all about possibilities,” Mike Starn said.

This idea is at the center of the Starns’ art. For these brothers, everything they create has a larger meaning, and a reoccurrence of themes was brought up during the interview. Every work is made with pieces that come together, which represents their style based off of each other’s contributions.

Often going into the brother aspect of their collaborations, the Starns accepted that they finish each other’s sentences and not competitive when it comes to art. They also said that the art of art itself is about an appreciation and an exploration of life.

The brothers described the “Sphere of Influence,” which was created in 1991 during the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Starns see this hanging piece as a skeleton of earth surrounded by an exo-skeleton of chaos.

Chaotic independence also played a role in the creation of the Starns’ most popular works. The “Absorption of Light” series from 1996-2004 that was influenced by the Starns’ extravagant perspective and respect for light.

“Light is what makes us who we are, what we love, what we hate…” Doug said.

The slides kept coming, and those in attendance remained engaged by Kaufman as he scrolled through the various art forms the Starns have experimented with and asked questions that gave way into the minds of these talented artists.

“Big Bambú” is an ongoing project that has already been created around the world in a variety of ways. From the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the canopies of Japan, these sculptures of bamboo linked by climbing ropes are large enough to walk through and strong enough to sit down on.

Advocates for people experiencing art in new ways, the Starns said they have created ways for people to see the world from within the artwork rather than look at it from afar.

With frequent ideas of new projects popping up, the brothers are always working on something. Mike Starn even admitted to living in their 40,000 square foot studio in Beacon, N.Y.

Their most recent works include a two series depiction of album covers and a project in Moscow involving space travel.

Magnolia graduate of spring 2017 Jessica Just was in the audience and said that this talk gave her an insight of how the Starns’ practice works, how they collaborate as siblings and where they draw their inspiration.

“They’re really crossing boundaries and mixing mediums,” Just said. “That’s really what contemporary art is all about right now.”

Cassidy Pate
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