Whether it is a pile of old umbrellas or the potential of a young artist, Jean Shin has an affinity for showcasing the overlooked.
“Many of my installations question what we value and the stuff our life is made of,” she said.
Shin, an adjunct professor of fine arts at Pratt Institute in New York City, and a core faculty member at the School of Art, will speak at 7 p.m. tonight, July2, in the Hultquist Center as part of the Visual Arts Lecture Series.
She will be discussing her artistic practice and giving a behind-the-scenes look at some of her projects, including a mosaic in a New York City subway station commissioned by the Manhattan Transportation Authority and exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Storm King Art Center in Hudson Valley.
Shin specializes in creating public, large-scale installations out of donated materials, including clothing, empty wine bottles and broken umbrellas.
“These objects go on to have their own life in a second context,” she said. “Most of (them) are forgotten, left over, often discarded … so in some ways it could be a critique of our consumer habits, how we live in this world of convenience and disposability.”
She said that using everyday objects is a way to make her work accessible to all people.
“Often times people can feel like art can be elitist and about a certain kind of knowledge,” she said. “My work is (made out of) … things that are in your life. Everyone has a memory, a specific place (where) they know this object, and so they bring that association with them and when they’re faced with the installation they feel like, ‘I know this.’ … I think that it really transforms how they look at this object in a larger context.”
These installations are made to engage and connect to the communities where Shin sources her donations and places her work. Her process involves extensive research and often takes more than a year to complete.
This community-centric attitude is similar to how she approaches her role as an instructor for this season’s students and emerging artists at the School of Art. She hopes to identify areas of growth for each individual, to “activate” the potential of the students and emerging artists as a whole.
“We all assume they’re artists, we all assume there’s a context of learning,” Shin said. “But what are they not getting? What are their needs? (Those are) kind of the same questions I have when I start any site-specific projects.”
This is her first time at Chautauqua Institution, and she is excited to get started.
“These are the kinds of things that make me very happy: to meet new people and arrive somewhere that I’ve never been, and just create a dialogue and see what’s possible,” she said.