Jean Shin

Artist Statement

By transforming accumulations of everyday objects into visually alluring conceptual explorations, my work speaks to the optimism inherent in giving new form to life’s leftovers.  In my sculptures and large-scale installations, I seek to recall an object’s past, as well as suggest its greater connection to our collective memories, desires and failures. 

My inventory of everyday materials includes broken umbrellas, donated clothing, losing lottery tickets, empty wine bottles and discarded computer keycaps.  These humble remnants, often forgotten and no longer “useful”, nevertheless retain the traces of their former lives.  After accumulating and deconstructing hundreds—sometimes even thousands—of these cast-offs, I synthesize the collection of them into new constructions for my sculptures, videos and site-specific installations. 

Taken together, the objects appear homogenous and monumental.  Upon closer inspection however, their individuality and variety emerges.  The focus of my installations shifts continually between the identity of the individual and that of the group, the single unit and the larger whole, the intimate and the excessive.  My elaborate process mirrors these dualities, as objects of mass production and consumerism are transformed by hand and through intense physical labor.

When collecting materials for my work, I frequently solicit donations from participants within a specific community.  The donated items act as surrogates for their original owners by referencing the body.  Some objects do this through their physical shape and former function, while others are more abstract, engaging ideas of the senses, perception, and behavior.   In this way, my installations become both group portraits and methods of mapping contemporary society.

Much of my work is site-specific, establishing a dialogue with not only architecture and outdoor spaces, but also the communities that inhabit and activate them.  By reinserting used, familiar materials back into the public realm, I invite a large, diverse audience to bring their own histories to the work.  Through these encounters each installation forms its own imagined community, revealing new associations and meanings for ephemera, and speaking to our shared experiences.