Richmond-VA-based master sculptor/woodworker Vivian Chiu re-imagines the aesthetic possibilities of split-turn wood sculptures in her debut solo show as a FLXST-represented artist in AND, OR, NOT.
Chiu’s new body of split-turned sculptures asks us to consider, “What happens when the whole becomes a part?”—the conceptual foundation is inspired by the mathematics of the Boolean functions. Boolean operations allow disparate shapes to combine or exclude into hybrids and voids.
Traditionally used for decorative purposes or ornaments, split turning has also been a way for Chiu to explore the concept of Ornamentalism, scholar Anne Anlin Chengʼs term for the particular way that Asian femininity is objectified. Ornamentalism poses the idea that the Asian feminine body, unlike other racially objectified bodies, is seen as ornamentation and decorative – closer to fine China and silk, an object of commodity. This seems to capture a tension that Chiuʼs work grapples with, that identity is something both ephemeral and inescapable, both assigned and experienced. For those of us who inhabit multiple worlds, our identities often feel hybrid, negotiated through the acts of assimilating, adjusting, and missing.
Vivian Chiu was born in Los Angeles and emigrated to Hong Kong at the age of three. Her interests in creating objects and the visual arts led her to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (BFA '11 Furniture Design) and Columbia University (MFA '19 Sculpture). With an aptitude for problem-solving and sensitivity toward materials, Vivian utilizes continuous deconstruction and reconstruction to create optical sculptures and explore ideas of visibility and perception. She is the recipient of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art Visual Arts Fellowship, Hirshhorn Museum NY Gala: Artist x Artist Co-Honoree, American Craft Council Emerging Artist Cohort. And Penland Winter Residency Distinguished Fellowship, among others.
Image: “Lantern #1” (detail), 2023. Poplar wood. 37 x 7.5 x 7.5 in. Courtesy of FLXST Contemporary