Pia Stern spent her junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence, the town in the south of France where Paul Cézanne lived and worked. There she took her first painting course and felt instantly at home with her instructors’ philosophical and visual perceptions of the world.
Returning to UC Berkeley as a senior, she enrolled in the art program and was greatly influenced by several artists who were integral to the Bay Area Figurative Movement including Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, Joan Brown and most notably, Elmer Bischoff, with whom she worked very closely.
Stern is primarily a process painter, and is known for her exploration of symbolic language. As stated by noted author and art critic Sister Wendy Beckett in "Contemporary Women Artists:" “Pia Stern…has an unusual power of transforming her ‘dreams’ into our own…The artist seeks out the great secrets of the heart and bodies them forth.”
Using oil paints and drawing materials in an intuitive manner, she rarely approaches her work with a preconceived idea. She may put down a quick gestural stroke, a dab of color or a general shape, yet this is just a starting point for her. Like an archeologist, she approaches the canvas as if on a ‘dig’, adding and subtracting, waiting for the meaning of the piece to reveal itself through the mark making process. Stern states “I view painting as a disciplined activity akin to meditation or prayer...Ultimately, I feel my work is psychological and philosophical in nature, reflecting my concern with the human condition.”
Her work is held in galleries, museums, public and private collections nationwide, and has been critically acclaimed in newspapers, books and journal reviews. She has a studio in Little Italy in San Diego, and her work is currently represented in San Francisco at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery and The Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery, and in Honolulu by Fine Arts Associates.