Mel Chin, American conceptual artist, will come to speak at WCU on Tuesday March 17 at 4:00 pm in the Fine and Performing Arts center in room 130. Art students and art appreciators should without a doubt mark this in their calendars, as Chin is a very important artist of our time. Chin’s work spans over environmental, social, political and cultural spheres. His work employs many unorthodox artistic disciplines, often collaborative, from weaving to video to natural science. Chin’s work is most noted for the benefits it offers the communities effected by it.
Chin breaks down many barriers between art and other disciplines. Think of Chin, and others who have broken such barriers recently, as radicals in the way that Leonardo Da Vinci was considered radical for his time, when he referenced actual human anatomy through direct research for the sake of his artwork. Chin has teamed up with scientists, animators and even rug weavers in order to see his visions through to higher potentials.
One of Chin’s most recent works, Revival Field, functions conceptually as a sculpture. A plot of land was used in the Pig’s Eye Landfill in St. Paul, Minnesota, for three years. The soil was contaminated with heavy metals. Inspired by psilocybin expert Terrence McKenna, who first suggested the idea in a paper, datura plants were grown in the plot. Where most plants would have died from the toxins, the datura plants, called hyperaccumulators, absorbed the metals. The plants were then harvested, burned, and sold for pure ore.
To Chin, this work was sculptural conceptually because over time, it physically carved away something in the land and transformed it. “Where the block pollution is, so we can carve it away,” says Chin in an Interview with Art21, referencing his ideology and comparing his work to an actual block of marble.
I believe that in the near future, we will see Chin’s work in multiples and on more massive scales. Chin is a truly postmodern artist, recognizing the human need for creative energies, while at the same time recognizing our current condition on the planet earth as humans, and developing a conversation and an interaction with those problems.
Chin, a first generation American, was born in Houston, Texas, in 1951, to Chinese parents. He grew up in a multiracial neighborhood of minorities and worked at a local grocery store. In 1975, Chin earned his BA from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1988 and 1990 he received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Mel Chin: Biography.” Art in the Twenty-first Century. Art21, Inc. 2001-2007. .