Inspired by the vast, farmed landscapes of the American heartland, Jean Shin created MAiZE, an immersive sculptural installation composed of material normally discarded as the last link in an agricultural production and consumption chain. Collaborating with The Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa along with more than 800 community volunteers, Shin repurposed thousands of green plastic soft-drink bottles into artificial “cornstalks” to form an elaborate maze in the Figge’s interior exhibition space, where the project debuted in June 2017. MAiZE is intended to engage its audience in a conversation about plastic waste, dietary choices, and environmental stewardship.
In conjunction with Shin’s participation as juror for this year’s Out of the Box outdoor sculpture exhibition at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, the artist has reconceived MAiZE for presentation at Auburn, where agriculture holds an equally important position as in the American Midwest and the natural environment similarly faces grave affronts and degradation.
The majority of plastic we use in the United States is not recycled but instead ends up in landfills, rivers, oceans, and other natural areas. Much of this discarded material is from food packaging and consumer waste. The massive volume of plastic utilized in this installation encourages visitors to consider plastic waste and its detrimental effects on the environment. The empty bottles, once filled with soda containing corn syrup, illustrate the issues of both overconsumption and the harmful effects of processed foods on our health. Questioning what we consume and how we interact with the environment is at the heart of this project. As the artist explains, “Nature, including our landscape and our bodies, has changed because of what we produce and consume. While navigating this maze at the Museum, we can reimagine a journey and a path to a better future.”
Jean Shin is internationally recognized for her inventive art works that transform cast-off materials into elegant expressions of identity and community. Her work has been exhibited widely in major national and international museums, including solo exhibitions at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona (2010), Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. (2009), the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia (2006) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2004). Born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in the United States, Shin attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1999 and received a BFA and MS from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She lives and works in New York City.