• Issue
  • Sep 01, 2023

Jean Shin: We Are All Here

Portrait of JEAN SHIN. Photo by Daniel Terna. Courtesy the artist.

In a portrait taken for The New York Times several years ago, artist Jean Shin stands in front of a huge hemlock tree wrapped in patches of colorful leather, looking firmly forward with an antique-looking metal spear—a bark spud, or peeling iron—in her hand. This site-specific sculpture of hers, Fallen (2021), was commissioned by the Olana State Historic Site in Hudson, New York, in response to the death of a 140-year-old hemlock tree. But this was not only a memorial for one tree. Millions of hemlocks in the region were felled in the 19th century when rich tannins in their bark were essential to the local leather-production industry. To acknowledge the historical context and ecological loss of the site, Shin salvaged the 12-meter-long trunk and stump of the tree, removed its outer bark, and gave it a protective layer of leather, a second skin. What once killed the tree now protects it.

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