Jana Sterbak is one of Canada’s best-known contemporary artists both at home and abroad. She represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and was the recipient of the Paul-Émile-Borduas Award in 2017. Often associated with her emblematic Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic or Generic Man (a photograph showing a man from the back with a bar code on the nape of his neck), the artist has created a number of powerful works that are frequently inspired by the human condition and ancient myths, including those of Sisyphus, Atlas and the Golem.
From 1998 to 2006, at Marseilles’ CIRVA art centre, Sterbak executed a group of works with the assistance of master glass-makers. Drawing her inspiration from the sphere, a basic form used by glass-blowers, she created oversized globes in novel colours and textures. Combined to form a solar system without a sun, these “planets” bring to mind the myth of Atlas, who bore the heavens upon his shoulders. They also reflect the artist’s interest in Stephen Hawking’s innovative physics theories on black holes and the origin of the universe. Sterbak links the magma of molten glass with that at the core of planets, suns and the first great explosion—the Big Bang—that was the beginning of everything. Since the fragile appearance of the globes is in a way reminiscent of humankind in the face of the cosmos, with this installation the artist succeeds in conveying the infinite on a human scale.