featured project

Sydney Shen, Strange but True

Project Team Members (Powerhouse Arts Staff): Ben Cohen

Commissioner/Funder/Presenter(s): Queens Museum

project overview

Sydney Shen collaborated with Powerhouse Arts’s Wood, Metal, and Digital Fabrication team to fabricate a series of large sculptures for her newly commissioned solo exhibition Strange But True at the Queens Museum.  Among the sculptures produced were a Magnifying Glass, Key Ring, and Pencil as part of an immersive installation that brings together tropes of Noir-inspired investigatory aesthetics, horror cinema, and video game architecture. In her practice, Shen creates sculptures and environments that connect historical and contemporary symbols, challenging viewers with the notion that documentary practices often contribute to bias and ingrained systems of oppression.

Powerhouse Arts devised techniques that allowed the monumental sculptures to maintain realistic form at scale.  Multiple materials, including steel tubing, high density foam, and 3D machined and polished acrylic were employed for the functional magnifying glass.  A monumental pencil was composed of laminated cedar with custom CNC-engraved lettering, and a real graphite pencil-lead.  Each sculpture for Strange But True was also fabricated to be installed in whimsical ways, garnering the description: “A topsy-turvy world with outsized objects…” Tailor-made installation solutions factored into the production in order to allow suspension of the sculptures — some of which weighed over 120 pounds — at unconventional angles. The sculptures were sealed and hand-painted by Shen, achieving her intent to “blur the amusing and the sinister, the uncanny manipulation of scale is complemented with Trompe l’oeil and other slippages of perception and failures of representation.”

Strange But True is on view and open to the public until August 22 2021.