Jean Shin’s artwork inspires a new definition of waste

The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, located in downtown Dallas, is currently exhibiting the work of Jean Shin, a Brooklyn-based artist known for reviving discarded objects into beautiful works of art. The free museum is a small treasure I only recently visited but now highly recommend. The top floor is dedicated to the “Inclusion” exhibition — Shin’s creative artwork that inspires people to look at waste in a new way.

From a distance stands an attractive metallic tree sculpture lit by a strong light creating an intricate shadow on the wall behind it. As you move closer to the tree, the details become apparent, and you realize each branch and in fact the entire tree is made from silverware — spoons, forks and knives. A video plays across from the tree, highlighting one of Shin’s community installations done in New York, bringing life back to ratty umbrella fabric by turning them into a large hanging canopy structure. Next to the video lies a section of what looks like comfortable trendy flooring, but upon closer examination is hundreds of chopsticks placed together like a puzzle.

Outside in the Crow Collection’s Sculpture Garden, Shin has installed another thought-provoking art piece, this time made from shards of celadon pottery. “I know that this is broken, and I know that this is trash but look how beautiful it is,” Shin said as she describes first seeing a piece of the broken pottery in an online video for the Crow Collection. Shin has shaped the celadon shards with their crackling, aquaish glaze into outdoor, enormous, traditional pottery-shaped pieces. The broken shards that surround the installation remind you of the trash the artwork originated from.

The idea of “Inclusion” is to challenge the thought of what we preserve and care for, and what we choose to toss away. “I see that someone else doesn’t want this, and I’m like yes, but could there be use; could there be a way to recontextualize it’s needs and create a second life?” Shin said on a video interview for the Crow. Shin makes you see the art and then makes you question the waste — why did we throw that away in the first place?

Art is inspiring in many ways but work like Shin’s is encouraging people to take care and put thought into what we make, what we use and what we throw away. Although Shin may not promote herself as an environmental artist her work is advancing thoughts just as several other environmental artists are. Chris Jordan, who uses trash to create beautiful murals and elaborate pictures you would never know until close examination, are made of tiny rubbish. Or Henrique Oliveira, who uses weathered wood in the place of brushstrokes to create large scale installations that from a distance look like an effortless painting.

Art is as much about the story as it is about the piece in front of you. Shin’s current installation at the Crow Collection is a little bit of contrast in not only respecting the value of pristine museum pieces found throughout the Crow Collection, but also finding value in the often discarded and excluded fragments and waste. In the right light, the unwanted trash is back in the spotlight.

Let the artwork inspire you to reconsider the trash in your home and office. How can your old magazines be creatively used in a way you haven’t thought of, what will you do with old clothes, broken plates or the bucket of wine corks?

Jean Shin’s exhibition entitled “Inclusion” is on display until Jan. 3, 2016. The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art is open Tuesday through Sunday at 2010 Flora St. in downtown Dallas. Admission is free (donations welcome).

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly. 

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