Featured Alumni: Asia Sztencel, MFA 2013

Asia Sztencel, a 2013 graduate of the Queens College MFA program, is a Brooklyn-based social practice artist and a first-generation Polish immigrant. Through innovative conceptual practices and traditional craft, her work offers a personal exploration inside the larger narrative of the immigration experience. She often examines themes of exile, recall, and longing. As an experienced artist-educator and a fellow immigrant, she engages the Polish community of Brooklyn and Queens in art projects and introduces them to other cultural communities in NYC.

Asia Sztencel has recently completed an artist residency from Residency Unlimited to pursue current projects including a social scavenger hunt Welcome to My Greenpoint and a community dialog and series of works You can’t carry your landscape with you. The artist describes this project as inspired by Renaissance Florentine paintings, where landscapes were often added to the background behind the portraiture:

“I am making portraits of Polish immigrants.

Making full use of the intimate ambience between model and painter, I guide our conversations to the recollection of scenic settings and precious memories from their earlier lives”

I record the conversations during the painting session.

In August, I am going to Poland and during this trip I will find all the places described to me by my models. I will contemplate them, sketch them, and photograph them.

After coming back to NYC, I will add the landscapes behind the portraits.

During our painting sessions, I create a special bond between myself and the model; we talk about the experience of being an immigrant, about the good and bad things. We share our dreams and goals for the future; we talk about obstacles and the needs of people like us. (Those dialogs, in turn, have inspired my next series of workshops for the Polish community in Greenpoint and Ridgewood).”

For more information about Asia Sztencel’s recent works, visit her website.

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