Syjuco’s work references various forms of studio portraiture, including nineteenth- century ethnographic portraiture by travelers, who captured their subjects in “exotic” dress, and the ubiquitous passport photograph, in which the sitter is expected to pose, unsmiling, with their facial features unobstructed. Syjuco simultaneously exposes and thwarts the standards of these sub-genres. In the Cargo Cults portraits, the sitter (the artist herself) wears costumes that were assembled from garments and other objects purchased at big-box stores in American shopping malls and styled to evoke ideas of “ethnic” patterns and styles. Syjuco also makes it difficult to locate a singular subject in each portrait through her use of patterns, which shift attention from foreground to background, and through the presence of calibration charts, which slyly offer a “standard” against which the central figure might be measured.
Gallery label from Being: New Photography, 2018