Art reference

The New Syracuse University Art Exhibit

The many bags of rice inside the Syracuse University Museum of Art may seem edible. But if you actually tried to take a bite, you’d have a bite of clay.

“I love that people often confuse the sculptures with their real-life counterparts from afar,” said Stephanie Shih, the ceramic artist behind the sculptures.

The bags and accompanying rice cooker are part of Shih’s show, “My Sweetie Has No Pockmarks”. This collection is the second iteration of the museum’s art wall project, which displays the work of an up-and-coming artist in front of the museum.

The exhibition reflects Shih’s usual style, as his work in the past included hyper-realistic sculptures of food to comment on Asian-American culture. The pieces show great attention to detail – even from a short distance they appear to be real sacks of rice.

“One thing that stands out about this exhibit is that the art is so appealing and cute,” said Melissa Yuen, Shih’s exhibit curator.

The show is a commentary on the wide range of Asian-American experiences. Shih said the title of the exhibit is a play on a common Chinese saying: If children don’t finish their meal, every grain of rice left in their bowls after dinner will be a pimple on their future future’s face. partner.

Shih’s exhibits include both bags of rice and rice cookers at the Syracuse University Museum of Art.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Matlock

Shih worked with Yuen to find the best location on campus for her exhibit. Together, they developed the exhibit to explore the history of the Asian diaspora and its effects, and to show the SU community that Asian-American identity is not monolithic. The exhibit is in the Shaffer Art Building, right next to the Shemin Auditorium.

Each artwork in the exhibit is sculpted from a real reference. Shih said she intentionally chose bags that varied in agriculture, Asian cuisine, cooking uses and countries of origin.

Shih’s ceramic process is very tactile, Yuen said. To create the bags, she stacks coils of clay on top of each other, creating a hollow structure. Viewers paying close attention will see slight gouges on each piece where Shih’s fingers have deliberately shaped and smoothed the stacked coils. This process captures tiny details such as the differences in texture between the sculptures of paper bags and cloth bags.

The different bags of rice also spark conversations about variations in Asian-American culture, Yuen said. Shih aimed to craft a commentary on how the Western gaze flattens and shrinks rice to represent an entire culture. Shih demonstrates this through the subtle changes in texture and variety of marks to show the wide range of experiences contained within the Asian diaspora, Yuen said.

“I was struck by how Stephanie uses this very everyday subject of food, especially grocery items, to explore questions of identity, culture, authenticity,” Yuen said.

As an Asian-American curator, Yuen said she had a nuanced perspective on the exhibit and valued authenticity within the Asian diaspora. Her favorite piece is “Asian Best Milagrosa Jasmine Rice” because it’s a brand she personally grew up with.

The exhibit will be on display at the Syracuse Museum of Art through the end of the academic year, but one piece, “Extra Fancy Botan Calrose Rice,” will remain after the exhibit closes. Yuen encourages students to visit both this exhibit and the museum as a whole to enhance their academic experience with a creative outlet.

“I am thrilled to exhibit Asian-American art in such a public space,” Yuen said.