Sep 15, 2011

PROFILE | Jean Shin | Connecting People with Art

Jean Shin, Unraveling, sweaters, 2006-09

It's obvious that most artist create their work with the intent of entertaining and inspiring their audience, but it's not every day that you find a piece of artwork that cannot only be related to the majority of people but that viewers can contribute to.  Sculptural artist Jean Shin turns the most common day items ─such as pill bottles, scarves, vinyl records, and old trophies─ into breathtaking works of art that not only hold deep meanings but depend on ordinary people's help for their construction.

Having only graduated from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1999, Shin is rapidly making her way as a well known sculptural artist with exhibitions in art museums all over New York and surrounding areas. However, it isn't her skillful techniques and creative masterpieces that add such interested to her works. Instead, it's the technique of how she gathers the materials and builds the installations that are truly noteworthy.  Shin summarized this point perfectly in an interview with John LeKay:

 "The process of accumulating my materials is is an extremely significant part of my work. In each project, I'm bringing together diverse individuals within a community that are connected by a common material they all have in their lives."

In her site-specific piece, Unraveling, Shin uses yarn and sweaters that were donated by members of the city to create a network of bright colors and patterns.  Shin wanted people to be engaged in the piece, so instead of just throwing a bundle of sweaters on the floor, she pinned the materials onto the museum's fourteen foot walls, weaving the strings together to make a web-like form.  This gives viewers the chance to walk underneath the mass of twine and experience the art in a whole new way.

 Not only is the finished piece important, but the building of the art is a vital portion of the experience to Shin.  An fixing of such massive scale requires multiple people for it to be created.  Whether it be material donations to actual labor volunteers, everyone acts as a team for Shin's vision to become a reality.  Through this process, Shin strongly encourages the social exchange between all the strangers coming together for a similar goal.

Jean Shin, Everyday Monuments, sports trophies, 2009

Continuing with her theme of connecting people, Shin created a piece known as Everyday Monuments.  She collected close to two thousand sports trophies from citizens of the Washington D.C. area.  This item was chosen because for so many people trophies hold special sentimental meanings and produce nostalgic feelings.  However, she removed the sports aspect of the trophy (basketballs, baseball bats, etc) and replaced them with representations of everyday items.  Instead of seeing track stars and wrestlers shining in gold, there were mailmen, taxi drivers, and stay at home moms.  Shin wanted to memorialize and honor the everyday workers that go about their lives day to day without any sort of recognition. 

In many of the installations in Shin's show Common Threads, these types of works are show cased.  She gathered empty prescription pill bottles for Chemical Balance and created a city scape out of found lottery tickets for Chance City.  All of these pieces have a very unique message and look to them, but they are all made from what most would call useless items.

Shin described her work as personal mixed with global, which is exactly what it is.  By using such common object that are donated by communities of the cities she's working in, she gets people involved in the creation of art that's going to be seen by thousands all over the world.  It's fun to think that some insignificant soccer trophy you received back in middle school could go from being shoved in a closet to being displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum for the world to see!

-Julie Jakubek

1 comment:

  1. I had seen your post way back when and had to go look for it because I found the image so intriguing. I really like that you included Everyday Moments. It's one of my favorite pieces that I've seen on this blog. I really think it's neat that she can put together pieces that speak to people like that one does. It's the people who never get credit that appreciate it the most. I lived in two separate dorms last year and the first semester, nobody ever saw the custodian and a lot of people left huge messes and never cleaned up after themselves. When I moved in the Spring, I found that the custodian would shampoo the carpets frequently, mop, deep clean the bathrooms, etc. We thanked her all the time and left notes on her door. You could really see that it came out in her work because she wanted to help us out by keeping the dorm clean for us. I really like that this piece glorifies the everyday person. Knowing that a lot of her art has the same affect, I'd be very willing to check her out and it would be really awesome to see her work displayed!

    -Jennifer Wright