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 Sarah Whyte
Aram Han Sifuentes (she/they) is a fiber and social practice artist, writer, and educator who works to center 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, 3Arts Award, 3Arts Next Level/Spare Room Award, and Joyce 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, Asian Arts Initiative, and Hyde Park Art Center. Her current solo exhibitions include Talking Back to Power: Projects by Aram Han Sifuentes (2022) at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and Who Was This Built To Protect? (2022) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, where she is currently the inaugural Getting to Know You Artist in Residence. Recent commissions include a public art project, Messages to Our Neighbors, for Mural Arts Philadelphia.
Han Sifuentes has facilitated workshops for her projects internationally including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and Herbert Johnson Museum of Art. 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, University Galleries at Illinois State University, and Wing Luke Museum of Asian Pacific American Experience.
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) for which she was awarded the 2021 Lois Moran Award for Craft Writing. Other texts include a book 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, was 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 a professor, adjunct at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is also a board member of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) fighting for Citizenship for All 11 million undocumented immigrants and adoptees.