Tabor professor expresses ideas through art, usefulness
Expressing ideas without becoming mainstream or too obvious is an ongoing struggle for artists.
When Shin-hee Chin arrived at Tabor college as an associate professor 14 years ago, she added one more item to the list — functionality.
Chin renders portraits and landscapes onto quilts, integrating humanity and usefulness. The quilts are not for warmth, but they maintain the familiar form of their roots.
“In the quilting world, there’s a traditional quilt, but this one is called an art quilt or a contemporary quilt,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be functional. It’s like other art hanging on the wall.”
Most of her fabric pieces utilize recycled fabrics, whether from an old blanket or a shirt her son outgrew.
Her work at Tabor’s “Small Multiples” faculty art show was no different.
The two quilts she chose were titled “People of the Wind II,” and “Eve, Mother of All Living.”
The focus of her first piece was the Flint Hills and plains Native Americans. It features a scene of rolling hills and open sky, with 40 small portraits sewn into felt, which lay on top of the landscape.
The second work displays a number of prominent women from Korean history, illustrating their importance to the country.
With Chin’s style, the threads shoot off in all directions, ranging from less than an inch, to several inches long. This is because she doesn’t pull from sewing, but drawing and painting techniques, with layered visual elements and varying line-lengths.
Others included at the show were ceramics professor Pamela Voth, her husband Tom, and design professor Derek Hamm.
The Voths displayed ceramic works, but they were distinctly different in style. While Pamela made a number of flowing dishes and vases, Tom chose 2,700 2-inch ceramic tiles laid randomly in a 4-foot by 15-foot space.
Preparing the work was a yearlong process for Tom, who used clay slabs and split them into 40 squares. He painted and designed each one individually, before baking them in an electric kiln.
He had been doing smaller projects with sets of 1,000 tiles for a few years, mounting them to old cupboard doors. Chin, who once did a project creating portraits with thousands of yarn yo-yos, challenged him to make 10,000 tiles and see where it took him.
“I do not want to use them on a floor, on a wall, or a countertop,” he said. “My intention is for them to be strictly artistic. The problem is, if I do make any large-scale portraits they won’t fit in our house.”
The direction of the portraits is unknown, but Tom has interest in focusing on historical social advocates.
“That’s one of my concerns,” he said. “I’d like to do something that has a message and a social conscience.”
In the meantime, he plans to regroup similar tiles together every so often to create designs, until the exhibition ends in February.
Pamela’s works look more functional than her husband’s, but the ceramic pieces are an attempt to stray from that practicality.
She constructed a dozen total pieces using an electric kiln, but fashioned them to look wood-burned.
Hamm’s work has less physical presence than the other three. His photographs, titled “Public Works,” detail the vertical structures he sees as rural “skyscrapers” from his travels.
The subjects vary greatly in size and orientation, from water towers and telephone poles, to churches and farm gates.