Jean Shin - Artist

Matt Tuohy
By Matt Tuohy
Friday - July 11, 2008


Jean Shin
Jean Shin

Jean Shin - Artist

When walking into artist Jean Shin’s contribution to the One Way or Another exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, it may seem like a spider has just ensnared you in a a giant web of old sweaters. It is, however, actually a web of connections among members of the Asian-American community.

It’s called Unraveling, a collaboration starting with Shin that includes local Asian artists, art students and the Asian art community across the country.

“The project began in New York, where sweaters are readily available - which was not the case in Honolulu,” Shin says with a laugh. “For me, the show was really to map out the Asian-artist community, and through this collection of sweaters - an everyday object - I wanted to have a large representation of this community.”

Local art students help Shin set up the installation
Local art students help Shin set up the installation

Shin contacted Asian artists for sweater donations in every community the piece has visited, collecting more than 165 garments to unravel and tie together. To establish connections between the artists to make her visual representation, Shin sent the list of donors to each participant via e-mail.“They then check off who they know on the list. Then I have this database of the artists, and I take the yarn from their sweaters and literally connect the people who know each other.”

The piece is meant to challenge the image of what people think of when they imagine Asian artists, Asian art and the Asian art community as a whole, Shin says.

Each thread connecting the sweaters makes up a symbolic web of connections of Asian artists
Each thread connecting the sweaters makes up a symbolic web of connections of Asian artists

“It’s a visualization of how these invisible networks really work. It’s about a group identity that is very, very complex when you see it.” Asian art communities in Houston, San Francisco, New York and Honolulu have been incorporated into the piece.

Shin came up with the idea by posing a simple question to herself.“I was curious about who we (the Asian art community) were, and, in my words, it would be (the Asian-art) community today.”

Shin’s piece will be on display through the end of August along with the rest of the exhibition, including other artwork, lectures and film festivals that emphasize the Asian art community. “It started at the Asian Society Museum in New York,” she says. “There are 17 artists, each with one piece - curators selected the pieces from Asian artists across the country.”

The piece features more than 165 sweaters partly unraveled, tagged from the original owner and tied to others
The piece features more than 165 sweaters partly unraveled, tagged from the original owner and tied to others

Shin received her bachelor’s in fine arts and her master’s in art history and criticism from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1994 and 1996. She has been part of many group exhibitions since 1999 and also has had several solo shows, mainly in New York.

For more information about Shin, visit For more on the One Way or Another exhibit or the academy, visit or call 532-8700.



Ong King

As far as First Friday venues are concerned, Ong King stands with the best of them. The studio space not only shows off work by local artists, but also holds weekly classes ranging from capoeira to Chinese medicine.

“By far the biggest night of the month is First Friday,” says co-owner See, aka Cristian Ellauri.“A new art exhibition happens in the gallery with wine and pupus for all. Then, at 9 p.m., the show starts.”

He is referring to a unique performance that features conga drummers, jugglers, modern dancers, touring slam poets, folk musicians and more. “Our mission is to make a sustainable art community and create an opportunity for creative risk-taking and artistic mastery,” says See, adding that his organization is open to anything as long as it’s done well.

On display through July and beyond are the decorative decals by mochee, a company started by local artist Sabrina Hochroth that makes large, vinyl decals to fill empty wall space. Featured artist is Gina Hensel, who is a self-taught painter born in Seattle and now a Oahu resident. The space’s emerging artist is local photographer Alea Chechter.

The open mic is the mainstay of Ong King
The open mic is the mainstay of Ong King, featuring poets, musicians, dancers and visiting performers every Sunday night

“I’m most excited about mochee,” says See. “She quit her day job to do art full time. She’s really into trying to create custom images to feng shui a living space. You can see it here at Ong King ‘cause the place is so much more rounded.”

To see the art, guests are invited to the weekly open mic on Sunday night or may call for a showing.

In addition to the First Friday art and events, weekly classes are offered in acupuncture, capoeira and ecstatic dance. “It’s like a healing form of dance where people are just asked to move freely,” says See. “People don’t really talk during the dance; it’s more about expressing what you’re feeling, however you want to dance.”

The open mic has been a mainstay for the space the past two-and-a-half years. “Open mics are awesome,” says See. “It costs a dollar, and we have people playing music, dance, read poetry and we serve ‘awa, or it’s BYOB.”

The space is located at 184 N. King St. in Chinatown. For more information on class and event pricing, call 306-7823 or visit


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