Prized to Extinction
Hand Blown Glass, Vintage Mother of Pearl Shell buttons, Freshwater Mussel Shells (Delaware River)
7" x 22" x 22"
DescriptionUsing cast-off or donated materials, I create large-scale sculptures that draw attention to everyday objects, often underscoring their circulation and cumulative effect upon our live environment. My work often begins by observing a place, probing the indexes of a site’s physical reality to identify an object or material that is ubiquitous yet implies a deeply personal sensibility. Following this rigorous research phase, I initiate dialogue with community stakeholders, inviting local participants to donate a specific, ordinary item—from sports trophies and lottery tickets to obsolete or ever-upgrading technologies like mobile phones—and allowing them to share their stories behind them. In turn, these intimate objects become the foundational medium for my sculptures and site-specific installations. Though my process is driven by conceptual and site specific interests, I thoroughly consider formal questions of shape, space, scale and color in the creation of each sculpture. Once identified and amassed, each object or material undergoes a meticulous, labor-intensive process of dissecting, stripping, or deconstruction so that it can be recast, adhered to or reshaped into a new form that challenges sculptural techniques and pushes innovation. While each sculpture functions as a reflexive apparatus for a broader place, the work is also informed by my subjective experience. As a first-generation immigrant, bearing witness to racial, economic, and environmental injustices has inspired me to create value out of discards as a form of repair. I address these inequities by reimagining the material potential of our world, revealing forgotten histories and making visible the undervalued labor of minorities. Through this literal and figurative work, broad collections of objects become portraits of multitudes, their material reality impossibly suspended. Individual remnants act as surrogates to the original owner, referencing the physical body and metaphorically representing personal identities and behaviors. This process lends purpose to social exchange beyond monetary advantage, generating reciprocal cultural and social value. Current projects have focused more closely on sculptural forms that employ organic elements–namely fallen trees–or that exist within natural environments. Salvaging the dying maple trees at Storm King Art Center and a 140-year-old hemlock at Olana State Historic Site, I use the raw material, including the bark, from these once-magnificent trees to create public sculptures that also act as memorials. Both of these recent sculptures offer space for gathering where viewers may closely observe and physically touch the work, generating empathy with nature’s vulnerabilities while providing a place to reflect on what has been lost.
About this Artist
Jean Shin is an artist whose large-scale installations speak to identity and community. She is on the faculty at Pratt Institute and a board member of the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Jean will engage students in multi-faceted projects in the public realm, including site-specific installations and socially engaged works.View Full Artist Bio