As an immigrant and a daughter of a seamstress, I learned to sew at age six. It was not a choice but rather a necessity to help my mother earn a living. In this way, sewing has ever since been an important part of me, my body memory, and my politics. Sewing is my medium to investigate identity politics, immigration and immigrant labor, possession and dispossession, citizenship and belonging, dissent and protest, and race politics in the United States.
My art practice situates itself at the intersection of fiber, social practice, performance, and pedagogy. At the core of my practice, I create socially engaged and materially rich projects in an ‘art world’ environment that are available and accessible for those who are disenfranchised, particularly for dispossessed immigrants of color.
I confront social and racial injustices against the disenfranchised and riff off of official institutions and bureaucratic processes to reimagine new, inclusive, and humanized systems of civic engagement and belonging. I do this by creating participatory and active environments where safety, play, and skill-sharing are emphasized. And even though many of my projects are collaborative and communal in nature, they incite and highlight individual’s experiences, politics, and voice. Much of my communal work revolves around sharing skills as a point of connection. We share sewing techniques, to create multiethnic and intergenerational sewing circles, which become a place for empowerment, subversion, and protest.
Photo by Virginia Harold
Aram Han Sifuentes (she/they) is a fiber and social practice artist, writer, and educator who works to claim spaces for immigrant and disenfranchised communities. Her work often revolves around skill sharing, specifically sewing techniques, to create multiethnic and intergenerational sewing circles, which become a place for empowerment, subversion and protest.
Han Sifuentes earned her B.A. in Art and Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.F.A. in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been a recipient of a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Map Fund, Asian Cultural Council’s Individual Fellowship, and 3Arts Award. Her project Protest Banner Lending Library was a finalist for the Beazley Design Awards at the Design Museum in London in 2016.
Solo exhibitions of her work have been shown at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Chicago Cultural Center, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and Hyde Park Art Center. Her upcoming solo exhibitions include Talking Back to Power: Projects by Aram Han Sifuentes (2022) at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and Messages to Authorities (2022) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, where she is currently the inaugural Getting to Know Artist in Residence. Han Sifuentes has facilitated workshops for her projects internationally including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Museum of Fine Arts. Han Sifuentes’s art works are included in various public collections including the Renwick Gallery of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Denver Art Museum, Herbert Johnson Museum of Art, DePaul Art Museum, and Wing Luke Museum of Asian Pacific American Experience. Recent commissions include a public art project for Mural Arts Philadelphia premiering in fall 2021.
She lectures and presents artist talks to international audiences. She also publishes writings and texts including “How Internalized White Supremacy Manifest for My BIPOC Students in Art School,” for the summer issue of Art Journal (2021), and the chapter “A Mother’s Work: A Mother/Daughter/Seamstress/Fiber Artist’s Merging Practice and Politics,” in Maternal in Creative Work: Intergenerational Discussions on Motherhood and Art edited Elena Marcevska and Velerie Walkerdine (2019). Her monograph, We Are Never Never Other, will be published in 2021 by University Galleries at Illinois State University. She was the 2020-2021 Artist-in-Residence at Loyola University, Chicago and is currently an Associate Professor, Adjunct at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.