Challah golden brown illuminated with egg wash, green Marine vegetables that involuntarily make your mouth wrinkle, and a glorious roast pork on garlic bread or ‘RPG’ full sandwich with burnt ends – these are just a few foods lovingly handcrafted by Stephanie H. Shih for Open on Sunday.
Despite the delectable appearance of each dish, to get started would be to chip a tooth, such is the technical prowess of the ceramic artist.
Worth going to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Open on Sunday will be on view at the Harkawik Art Gallery from June 28 to August 6, 2022.
The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Shih first turned to clay as a form of therapy at a time in her life marked by chronic pain, reports Enjoy your meal. Like her artist biography lit, Shih shines a spotlight on “diasporic nostalgia and the material lineages of migration and colonization through the lens of Asian American cuisine.”
Anyone who has carefully followed Shih’s path could sense that there has been a change in the wind. Having established herself, Shih, who previously sculpted Asian groceries in general, is focusing on a more comfortable niche for her fifth exhibition: The confluence of Chinese and Jewish communities on the Lower East Side.
Why “Open on Sunday”?
While New York’s Christian majority traditionally keep their businesses closed on the Sabbath, Sunday marks the start of the work week according to Jewish tradition. (Weekends in Israel are Friday through Saturday.)
Not limited to food, the works exhibited at Open on Sunday to understand “relics of cultural overlap», such as trilingual road signs or a mah jong Position. While tile-based mahjong was invented in China in the 1800s, it became a feature of American Jewish culture in the mid-20th century, explains The Wall Street Journal in a article from May 2021.
A stellar example of a cross-cultural dish, if there ever was one, the aforementioned roast pork on garlic bread is arguably one of the most curious artifacts of Open on Sunday. Born in the ‘Borscht Belt’ in the Catskills in upstate New York, the legendary sandwich sees a Chinese BBQ pork roast on a crusty bun with a hearty schmear of mustard and kosher pickle and duck sauce on the side.
The bottom line of Open on Sunday is that there is nothing black and white about cross-cultural traditions, which have just as much claim to ‘authenticity’. On the contrary, cross-cultural relics paint a clearer picture of our increasingly globalized world.
Cover image via Harkawik