Jana Sterbak was born in Prague, Czechoslavakia and immigrated to Canada as a teenager. Her art deals primarily with the subjects of the human body, fashion and social/cultural conditions. She uses familiar forms such as beds, stools, crinolines, and dresses and transforms them by creating them out of unconventional materials. A series of hoop dresses, one made with wheels controlled by a remote, and another that sends an electric charge through the wearer, deal with issues of control, both having control and giving it up. A representational backpack fashioned from stone and leather straps is another piece that like her cage-like dresses speaks of confinement.
Sterbak’s Vanitas piece is a dress constructed from 50 pounds of flank steak stitched together and then rubbed with salt. The dress was allowed to cure over a period of several weeks and as the dress aged it went through a series of metamorphoses. From its original fleshy fresh red meat state, to an increasingly brown decay, to finally, a brownish grey jerky like appearance, this is a transformation happening right in front of you. It was agreed that the institution that purchased the dress would replicate it every so often and this further reinforces the transformation theme. As for its core meaning, you have to look no further than the title Vanitas, human vanity and the gradual degradation of appearance over time.