Meet the Artist: Stephanie Syjuco on her work in Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018

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  • STEPHANIE SYJUCO: My background actually is in sculpture, which is a fairly traditional studio practice. But as my career moved forward as a younger artist, I realized that I became much more interested in works that actually implicated the public in some way.

    My name is Stephanie Syjuco. I'm a visual artist, and I work in large-scale installation and also socially engaged projects.

    For the exhibition at the Renwick, I'm spotlighting several major installations. There's a centerpiece project called “Neutral Calibration Studies,” which features multiple sculptures and images and textiles. Then another larger new series of what I'm calling “Chroma Key Garments,” which feature this very bright green chroma key fabric and then multiple other textiles, panels, and objects that highlight issues of protest and civic engagement.

    Essentially, it's asking, "How are we constantly writing and rewriting American history?" That maybe some of the stories that have been told to us about the formation of the country have actually been quite malleable. Those stories have been used to suit different types of political ideas. Instead of taking those narratives as fact, I'm actually trying to highlight that they're quite manipulable.

    When thinking about what I'd like to include in the exhibition, we kept circling back to this idea of the status of being American today. Where that kind of comes from when thinking about historical iconography, images of historical America, as well as also the kind of immigrant experience. The ways in which multiple cultures come to the United States and then, in a way, kind of invent or incorporate their backgrounds and histories into what it means to be American.

    So in one of the larger installations in the exhibition—it’s called “Neutral Calibration Studies”—and it's a kind of collapse of lots of different references. So everything from sort of outdated ethnic stereotypes to contemporary imagery of hybrid spaces or hybrid identities. It all sort of folds in together and creates this kind of both, I think like a contradiction in many ways, but also maybe reflects some of the contemporary or current conflicts happening in American culture. As we find ourselves now in the 21st century, this question of what it means to be an American is really at the forefront. There's a lot of conflict involved in that, and I think more recently I've been interested in re-examining historical American iconography. Simply because as an immigrant to the United States, I also had to kind of learn this historical narrative and incorporate it into how I saw myself as a citizen. A lot of the works also examine that history and, in a way, kind of challenges the traditional narrative that we've been taught.

    Driven by socially engaged issues, Stephanie Syjuco, an artist featured in Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018produces large-scale installations and communal workspaces that use elements of craft to interrogate the complicated relationships between objects and our own identities. 

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