Stirling received her MFA in Printmaking from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She has taught art at Whitworth University, the Beijing International College, and the University of Colorado Denver. Currently, Stirling is Assistant Professor of Art at Westmont College.
The paradox of daily life as safe and comfortable, juxtaposed with its polar opposite – defense against life’s uncertainties – appears to bully the American Dream itself. My art explores images of post World War II Americana where energy and resources were often used to advance comfort and promise safety and wellbeing. In my installations, I explore the structure of a safe home – streetlights, covenants, cul-de-sacs, speed bumps, alarms, and fences overlaid onto suburban neighborhoods and communities. My recent prints examine complexities and illusions created through the antithetical patterns of daily suburban life by exploring the extent to which perceived safety is part of the national psyche.
By combining printmaking, painting and photography, my work evokes an idealized way of life. Underlying this façade is the reality that subdivisions of neutrally painted houses with neat lawns are just as likely to be marked by the unexpected. Despite that carefully formed sets of rules exist to model how one is expected to function in these spaces, the over exaggerated idea of safety becomes weakened by isolation, chance, and violence, to which we are all vulnerable. The balance of comfort existing within the systems of routine, nature, and design are prevalent in my work. The repetitive patterning within my images represents the row after row of identical tract housing built to accommodate young families in communities such as Levittown, New York, developed as a model of mass-produced housing. Returning WWII veterans wishing to start a settled life moved en masse to the suburbs with the hopes of a future unmarked by the chaos of war.
Often I use household materials within my artwork – the acidic pool of coffee on paper and the grid of a checkerboard game together with the spherical spray of punctures produced by a shotgun. The random cloud of shot pattern reminiscent of backyard stargazing arranged near gridded lines reinforces the idea that life is both predictable and can be interrupted by violence. The concept behind each print dictates its manipulation, sometimes requiring multiple layers of printed imagery, paint, and hand drawn elements.
Recently, my art provides a space in which I translate my conversations and interactions with people and media into socially driven work, which explores a progression of how community and family are continually redefined by the consequences of war. The process of making sense of these connections is beginning to form a visual language. I believe that art for both the artist and those who interact with the work ought to be an immersive and transformative experience. My work creates a dialogue in which ideas can be shared and engagement in artistic practice in the social field is examined.