Stephanie H. Shih, Oriental Grocery, hand made and hand painted ceramics

This week, we welcome artist Stephanie H. Shih, a Taiwanese American artist exploring concepts of home, not just as a physical place, but also as cultural, generational, and emotional spaces we inhabit. Her work has been shown at Perrotin Editions (New York, NY), the American Museum of Ceramic Arts (Pomona, CA), and Wieden+Kennedy (Portland, OR), and featured by NPR, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, and The Guardian. She lives in Brooklyn.

The real thing, and the ceramic sculpture side by side

Through the lens of the Asian American pantry, my ceramic sculptures explore how shared nostalgia can connect a diaspora across geography, nationality, and class. For second-generation Asian Americans, the finite collection of imported grocery brands from our youth has become shorthand for parallel childhoods raised by immigrant parents. To meet strangers who have memories of eating the same can of fried dace——a small fish preserved with salted black beans——is to discover a sense of belonging. Replicating these kitchen staples in clay immortalizes both the shared memories and the feeling of finding the nonexistent homeland of Asian America.

Stephanie H. Shih, Hand-folded porcelain dumpling finished with a high-gloss 11% gold luster. Signed and numbered, open edition.

Since 2018, I’ve folded over 1,500 porcelain dumplings and sculpted a kitchen’s worth of instant noodles, soy sauce, Spam, and 50-pound bags of rice. The process of recreating the Chinatown grocery stores of my youth has itself become part of my work: crowdsourcing food memories from other diasporic Asian Americans, researching the packaging variations that have since been updated, and replicating labels with abundant fishing scenes from an oyster sauce I’ve used hundreds of times but never really looked at. The result is a pantry from the ‘80s——filled with fingerprinted surfaces and shakily painted labels——that looks at once familiar and hazy, like an old memory.

Nitin is a visual designer, gallery artist, and community arts activist. Past desk-oriented posts include: PBS, Digitas, K12, Inc., Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Sesame Workshop International....

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