A gaze into one of his paintings is like peering into a telescope, or conversely, a microscope.
Whichever, it’s exactly what the artist, University of North Dakota alumnus Andy Stark, is shooting for.
Stark’s abstract expressionist use of lines and color fields can transport admirers deep into outer space, amid a swirling cosmic array of stars and planets. Or on the flipside, it can lure viewers for a glimpse of inner space — the microscopic molecular realm — unseen by the naked eye.
It’s brilliantly stunning; it’s vaguely familiar; but, ultimately, it’s an up-close interpretation of a world either too distant to touch or too small to notice.
Stark said studying art at a place like UND, with its famed aerospace school, its links to NASA and its Space Studies Department, has only fueled his wonderment for what lies beyond our reach.
His studio on the second floor of UND’s Hughes Fine Arts Center is filled with his work, some of it inspired by images sent back to Earth by NASA satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope.
“I have always loved astronomy, especially looking at images of nebular events,” Stark said. “It’s that other side of the universe that I find fascinating.”
Stark, 32, grew up in Fargo-Moorhead and graduated from UND in May with a master’s degree in fine arts.
When talking with Stark about his work and what inspires him, one quickly realizes the practice of art is as much a pursuit of scholarly research as anything else in the humanities, or the laboratory sciences, for that matter. Stark says it’s an exploration of the human experience through art and how lines, color, and texture affect mood.
Stark did his undergraduate studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he intended to major in graphic design. While taking part in an illustration course, he and his fellow students were required to expose themselves to other art forms.
“That’s when I really fell in love with painting,” he said.
At MSUM, Stark was mentored by faculty members Zhimin Guan and Carl Oltvedt.
“They encouraged me to look at as much art as possible and to find my own voice in a specific medium,” Stark said.
He took their advice and settled on painting, dabbling at first in a very figurative style before moving to the abstract expressionism that pervades his work today.
Stark brought the strong artistic foundation built under Guan and Oltvedt to UND in 2006 to pursue his master’s.
At UND, he has been advised by Professor Patrick Luber and Assistant Professor Donavan Widmer, both of whom helped him hone his skills. Oh, and they also asked Stark to define his place in art history, as well. No big whoop. Right?
“Now that is an extremely daunting thing to think about, considering we’re talking about thousands of years of history,” Stark says with a smile. “That can get a bit overwhelming.”
But he just may have found his niche, gauging the reaction his art is receiving.
About a year ago, Stark started exploring more “universal” ideas that have always interested him.
“One of these concepts is our place in the universe and how we come to find that place,” he said. “This is a world that we can only explore through a telescope. There is still a mystery there that I like, and these are the things that have really confounded humans for a long time.”
Cover Image: The energy of discovery and creativity are expressed well in this untitled painting by Andy Stark.