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Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Vivian Chiu Wants to Bring Women into the Wood Shop

LGBTQ Pride Month is now. Every day in June, we are celebrating the community by featuring one queer artist and letting them speak for themselves.

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

Vivian Chiu working on a foam sculpture at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (2016) (image courtesy the artist)

Vivian Chiu

Age: 29

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Artistic Medium: Sculpture

Who are you and what do you do?

I was born in Los Angeles and moved to Hong Kong when I was 3. As a queer Asian woman interested in ideas of (in)visibility, I use methods of laborious deconstruction and reconstruction of materials such as wood, acrylic and photography to reveal and conceal the female body. I am interested in the tension created by combining contrasting forms and concepts into a single object. Drawing from personal experiences and histories, I create abstract optical sculptures and images to engage with the viewer through ideas of perception, disorientation, and camouflage. The nature of labor intensive processes allows my anxieties to be transferred into the layers or units of my sculptures, becoming a physical manifestation of my internal psychological narratives. Every step is a violent yet pacifying act.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott, Ursula von Rydingsvard (I worked as her studio assistant for 5 years), and late nights chatting with good friends.

Describe your coffee order.

I drink tea! English Breakfast tea with milk and sugar.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Teaching women to feel less intimidated in the wood shop and watching students become badass makers.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Good weather, good company, good music, good alcohol and maybe grass between my toes.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

I really liked Urs Fischer at Gagosian!

What would your superpower be if you had one?

Flying! (So I can “hike” without walking.)

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I hold the record for most Jazz Grammy Nominations without a win.

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

Can I be your assistant?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

Humans.

What did you make when you first started making art?

Angsty body cast collage sculptures with dripping black ink.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

I feel like I’m good at keeping secrets so I’ll go with throwing shade..

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

Edward Hopper’s self-portrait at the Whitney. For some reason he always stares right into my soul.

What are your plans for pride month?

I am in a group exhibition called Queer as I at HERE Art Center curated by Dan Halm. It consists of 50 self-portraits of LGBTQ artists, one for each year since Stonewall. There is an event at the show on June 27, so everyone should come by!

What is the future of queerness?

That the only closets that exist are the ones you put your clothes in.

Back in my day…

My brothers had no idea I liked girls.

Name one guilty pleasure.

The fried chicken at Yafa Deli in Clinton Hill.

Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

There is always never enough support for queer artists and artists in general.

How do you stay cool during the summer?

A nice cold beer and cold showers.

What is your favorite type of milk?

WHOLE.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

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