A Brooklyn-based ceramic artist is channeling her passion for Asian American culture into hyper-realistic sculptures of popular Asian foods.
Stephanie Shih, a first-generation Asian American, found herself creating a dumpling out of clay one night in July 2018. Upon sharing her creation on Instagram, she received comments that dismissed her work as kitschy.
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“In the U.S., Chinese food exists in a strange space,” she told Oprah Magazine. “It’s very integrated into the American palate yet not taken seriously. It’s often the butt of a joke. People reacted to the dumpling through that lens, but I wanted to center the Asian experience, not the white one.”
So Shih, whose work has appeared at the American Museum of Ceramic Art and New York’s Hashimoto Contemporary art gallery, began sculpting other foods and condiments, from a bottle of Chinese vinegar to the Korean probiotic milk beverage Yakult. The artist drew on both childhood memories and the Asian pantry to “explore how shared nostalgia can connect a diaspora,” according to her website.
“I liked the conversation that my work is creating,” she once told Vice in an interview. “I often talk about how we’re called Asian Americans, but there’s no place called ‘Asia America.’ There’s no place we can go and only be around other Asian Americans, so the cultural dialogue around art becomes that space.”
To date, Shih has sculpted over 600 dumplings, along with bottles of soy sauce, cans of condensed milk and packets of ramen. Her sculptures have become a hit on Instagram, where she has over 13,000 followers.
See some of Shih’s ceramic creations below.
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