A Star is Born - WMODA | Wiener Museum

A Star is Born

Rob Stern’s iconic Windstars have attracted a lot of attention in our Art on Fire exhibit. Now he has installed a constellation of his stars at WMODA.

Rob Stern’s studio is in Wynwood, Miami and he has exhibited his work internationally during his 30-year career as a glass blower. He is known particularly for his iconic Windstar sculptures, which are dedicated to his father, a consummate stargazer fascinated by cosmic phenomena. Rob was inspired also by his surname Stern which means star in German.

Rob often names his stars to evoke the celestial sphere. Copernica is derived from Copernicus, which is visible in the evening sky over Miami Beach. Polaris is known as the North Star and is the brightest in the constellation of Ursa Minor.  Antares is the 15th brightest star in the night sky and is in the constellation of Scorpius. Other Windstar names conjure up colors and experiences. Red Dawn takes its name from its glowing red center while the deep cobalt blue Modra is named after the Czech word for blue. The Windstars are constructed with 13 individual parts, which Rob blows with infinite color and cane patterning variations. He has a deep understanding of glass as a material and believes that the glass takes him where it wants to go during the making process.

Coming down to earth, Rob also enjoys the minutiae of nature and studies leaves, seed pods, shells and coral formations for his brilliant glass sculptures. He spends a lot of time outdoors as he also loves surfing and rock-climbing. In his words, “My aesthetic resides at the crossroads where humans and nature intersect. Between organic and angular, a space, which 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 evolution, light and time.”  Rob's talk on his philosophy of Humanature was much enjoyed by Arthur Wiener at WMODA last year and led to the acquisition of the works now on display in the museum.

Watching Rob at work with his team is an exhilarating experience. He equates his process to playing in a band with himself as the leader. The group makes some notes and puts them together to make a song and then replays the music until it becomes harmonic. It was teamwork that first drew Rob to glass, and he enjoys teaching and giving back to the global glass art community. He is currently the senior artist-in-residence at Benzaiten Center for the Creative Arts and one of his demonstrations at the Corning Museum of Glass can be viewed below.

Rob was born in Miami and grew up in Atlanta where his mother was an art teacher and his father worked in the movie industry. Rob trained initially for a career in the performing arts and toured as a singer, dancer and actor. It was during his art studies at San Francisco State University that he discovered glass making at the age of 20. As he says, "When I started working with glass, I began to look at the world in a different way."

After a five-year apprenticeship at an industrial glass casting facility in Oakland, Rob toured glass factories in Europe. On his return he continued his studies at the Pilchuck Glass School where he came under the spell of Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, and Pino Signoretto. He was working with Pino on the day that the maestro began collaborating on the Venetian Putti series with Lino and Chihuly. Rob owes a special debt to Pino, the Murano Maestro, who is remembered for his incredible talent of sculpting in hot glass. Rob has also been influenced by the Bohemian glass making tradition. He was a teaching assistant to Petr Novotny, also a Chihuly collaborator, and worked for several years at the Ajeto glassworks in the Czech Republic.

Rob returned to Miami in 1997 to complete his MFA at the University of Miami. He helped develop and run their glass sculpture program for many years. In 2000, he set up his own studio in Wynwood, Rob Stern Art Glass, where he makes his signature works, site specific installations and lighting designs. He divides his time between his own work, teaching, residencies, and demonstrations at Pilchuck, Corning, and other famous glass institutions around the world.  He relishes the Florida sunshine where he works. In his view, “Glass and light go hand in hand, it’s a magical material.”

During the Out of this World program on Saturday, March 21 at WMODA, Rob will talk about his inspiration from nature and will reminisce about his work with his mentors Chihuly, Lino, Pino and Petr. He will also discuss his latest commissions, his life as a busy glass artist and teacher of the next generation.

“My sculptures are mere stepping stones towards my search for a connection to truth.”

“My aesthetic resides at the crossroads where humans and nature intersect.”

“Humanity is transcended as we reflect the rhythm and patterning in this natural world.”

"When I started working with glass, I began to look at the world in a different way."

“Glass and light go hand in hand, it’s a magical material.”

Watch Rob make one of his leaf vessels

Watch one of Rob's demonstrations at Corning Museum of Glass