New finding aid: School of Fine Arts professor and fiber artist, Joan Sterrenburg

The finding aid for retired IU School of Fine Arts faculty member, Joan Sterrenburg, is now available! The collection offers a unique view into the teaching theories and professional development of fine arts faculty. Sterrenburg taught at IU from 1970 until 2004 and was part of an innovative group of professors who helped develop studio art into the dynamic program it is today.

In the late 1970s and early 80s IU offered one of the largest and most comprehensive textile programs, teaching traditional and non-traditional techniques, handwork, and off-loom processes. The Sterrenburg papers reflect the evolution of the program. In addition to her work as faculty in textiles, Sterrenburg founded and directed the Indiana University Handmade Paper Facility from 1979-1989. The collection contains an extensive amount of research about the history and practice of papermaking and development of dye recipes.

In a 1983 exhibition catalogue, Sterrenburg explained her artistic practice, which combined “image involvement with color interaction, modular construction, and an interplay of visual systems composed of constants and variables. I work to create energy and tension. I am totally seduced by the surface and ‘edge’ quality I can generate with hand-made paper. I have always worked to achieve a magical interaction of surface/material and structure/process.”

This philosophy of aesthetics is apparent in the large amount of 35mm slides included in the collection.┬áThere are also exhibition catalogs containing images of Sterrenburg’s works such as this piece from a 1983 show at the Hillwood Art Gallery, Long Island University, New York:”

Joan Sterrenburg, Colorado Strata, 1982. Dyed handmade rag paper, 70 x 72 x 2 in.
Joan Sterrenburg, Colorado Strata, 1982. Dyed handmade rag paper, 70 x 72 x 2 in.

There are also numerous teaching slides that illustrate the perception of color, perspective, and pattern, meant to inspire students to integrate the concepts into their work. Sterrenburg maintained contact with many of her students; the collection contains letters from appreciative students describing their post-graduation accomplishments and slides of their artworks and exhibitions.

This collection demonstrates the effort that goes into developing the curriculum of a studio art program and the challenge of balancing the inspiration of students along with the maintenance of one’s own artistic development. Sterrenburg’s papers are evidence of the excellence and creative spirit of the School of Fine Arts faculty.