Talking heads, talking art

New York artist Melissa Stern brings her traveling exhibition to the Weisman Art Museum.

Some of the figures created by Melissa Stern for her

Meagan Lynch

Some of the figures created by Melissa Stern for her “The Talking Cure” exhibit that opened at the Weisman Art Museum on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Joe Cristo

Melissa Stern’s traveling art exhibit, “The Talking Cure,” is primarily concerned with the way art and storytelling intersect with perception and psychology.

“You can see how my studies in anthropology influenced this work,” Stern said. “I studied why people want to make things.”

The New York artist’s inspiration is a bit scattered. After studying art history and anthropology at Wesleyan University, Stern spent some time working odd jobs before finally dedicating herself to art full-time.

However, there’s more to artistry than studio time. Stern has worked as a contributor for the online art forum “Hyperallergic,” taught at New York University and Brooklyn College as an adjunct professor, and was an art critic for the New York Press.

“I’m very into the idea that we can all learn together,” Stern said. “Collaboration is important to me.”

Stern’s project “The Talking Cure” began in the spring of 2012, with the idea of creating a traveling multimedia art exhibition comprised of 12 pictures and 12 sculptures working in tandem with 12 writers and 12 actors.

First, Stern created the sculptures, each of which depicts a posing, human-shaped figure. A drawing is included with each.

Next, she put out a call for writers who would choose one of the figures and write a three-minute monologue about what they thought the sculpture was thinking. Contributors included a comic book writer, a rock ‘n’ roll star and a premier horror film producer.

Finally, actors came to recite what had been written — choosing based on which monologue inspired them the most.

“I gave them very little direction,” Stern said. “I’m all about inclusiveness and interactivity.”

Another artist whose work will be shown in the exhibit is Rebecca Krinke. Her interactive piece — “What Needs To Be Said?” — will also be on display for the exhibit’s duration.

“What Needs To Be Said?” is a structural object that functions as a place for an encounter,” Krinke said. “It’s essentially a public participation project.”

Krinke’s piece calls upon the public to write down their thoughts and attach it to the wall, or place it inside of an accompanying glass vessel.

“I’ve been a journal-keeper since I was 13 or 14,” Stern said. “If something was really emotionally intense, then I couldn’t write about it, but if I finally did, I would feel much better and it would help me overcome things.”

University of Minnesota graduate students Piero Protti and Alexandra Olson helped design and construct the wood and glass piece. Krinke is a current artist-in-residence, and one of her assignments was to help plan an event at the Weisman.

“I like the dichotomy of public and private,” Krinke said. “I think my work sort of toes that line.”

Both artists create work that looks to feed off the energy of the audience.

“The way this exhibit interacts with the public has got to be one of the most rewarding things that I’ve done,” Stern said. “Drawing, sculpting, art — it’s all about storytelling.”

“The Talking Cure” opened Sept. 3 and will run through April 30 at the Weisman Art Museum