Spartan Artist Cynthia Gonzalez Earns International Sculpture Award

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Awards and Achievements

Cynthia Yadira Gonzalez assembled her award-winning sculpture, The Beginning of My Oral Fixation Was a Game I Liked to Play,” in a wood workshop taught by SJSU Spatial Art Professor Shannon Wright. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Yadira Gonzalez.

Artist Cynthia Yadira Gonzalez, ’20 BFA, ’24 MFA Spatial Art, has received a 2022 International Sculpture Center’s (ISC) Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for her piece, “The Beginning of My Oral Fixation Was a Game I Liked to Play.” 

“It’s nice to be recognized and have my work in a public setting because, most of the time, I don’t feel like my work fits in anywhere,” said Gonzalez, who described her introduction to the art world through the lens of religion, arts and crafts, and folk art. A second-generation Mexican American artist, Gonzalez’s work explores limbo between countries, cultures, languages, identities and genders.

San José State University Spatial Art Professor Shannon Wright, who nominated Gonzalez for the prestigious award, describes the winning piece as a “truly remarkable hand-cranked wooden kinetic sculpture painted in spectacularly bright colors. 

Cynthia Gonzalez.

Cynthia Yadira Gonzalez, ’20 BFA, ’24 MFA Spatial Art. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Yadira Gonzalez.

“The automaton was a tour de force: festive, rustic, cartoonish, and on the surface, extremely humorous. However, like much of Cynthia’s work, further contextualization from a written statement suggested that the piece was part of a cathartic working-through of childhood trauma.”

The award includes an opportunity to participate in a residency program at the International Sculpture Center’s Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort, Kentucky; a feature in the winter 2023 issue of Sculpture magazine; complimentary one-year membership in ISC; and potential inclusion in a fall/winter exhibition. 

Gonzalez was 14 when she first realized she wanted to be an artist and has explored sculpture, watercolor, ceramics and more.

“I didn’t always know the difference between the art we see in museums and what people sold at the flea market,” she said. “I want to challenge the separation of ‘high art’ and ‘low art.’ I like incorporating found objects and working-class materials, like caulking and glitter, into my work and remixing it into something new.”

She created the award-winning piece, a brightly-colored elaborate wooden sculpture with several interlocking dowels, in Wright’s woodworking class. It was featured in her BFA thesis exhibition, entitled “Perdida” (‘Lost”). Much of her work explores the liminal space between identities and cultures, juxtaposing childhood trauma against a vibrant, attention-getting backdrop.

“My colors are something you can’t ignore,” she added. “I’ve been told they are like primal screams. Most of my life, I’ve been told to shut up, keep things to myself, and I feel like bright colors can’t be ignored.”

Wright, who has been one of Gonzalez’s mentors since she first transferred to SJSU in 2018, said that “the level of transformation that occurred within her work during this short time, both materially and conceptually, [is] nonetheless quite astonishing.”

See more of Gonzalez’s portfolio.