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Salvaging Emotions

Art from Chicago-area junkyards featured in winter exhibition

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November 29, 2010 | by Judy Moore
Dittmar Memorial Gallery's first winter 2011 exhibition will be Soo Shin's "Emotional DIY," which is open to the public from Jan. 5 to Feb. 6.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- When Soo Shin isn’t assembling one of her intricate sculptures or sketching in her Printer’s Row studio, she rummages through Chicago-area junkyards or scouts city streets in search of discarded home building materials and household furnishings. The wood, metal, concrete and sundry materials she salvages and transforms into art are key components of her do-it-yourself (DIY) “emotional functioning sculptures.”

An exhibition of the Korean-born contemporary artist’s sculptures and drawings at the Dittmar Memorial Gallery, titled “Emotional DIY” by Soo Shin, will run from Jan. 5 through Feb. 6. The exhibition and a 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7 opening reception are free and open to the public. The gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus

Soo Shin’s precariously structured and unrefined sculptures reflect the uncertainty of human emotion and address the nature of language. They are meant to console -- as a mother or caregiver might mollify a child -- those who have experienced rejection and loneliness by replacing unfulfilled human relationships with inanimate objects and soothing words.

Her sculptures are marked by two contrasting textures -- softness and hardness. “The softness is comforting and invites people’s physical interaction,” said the artist. “The hard materials shorten the emotional distance between my sculpture and that of the viewers.“

She is fond of wood because “it is organic like humans, easily damaged, changes with time and always looks different.” Text also is a key component of her work.

Her complex “Emotional DIY” sculpture #23 resembles the aftermath of a tornado. Made from rough chunks of concrete, thin metal rods, slabs of distressed wood flooring boards and jagged pieces of Styrofoam, it also includes a white neon sign that announces “OPEN.”

Sculpture #21 is a tall and rickety ladder-like slide made of strips of recycled crude wood and fabric seat cushions. A sign at the top conveys the comforting message “THERE FOR YOU.”

A series of black-and-white water-soluble wax and charcoal drawings, primarily of dark haired human heads, capture solitary individuals deeply engaged in thought.

While fully aware that objects cannot replace the role of human bonds, she believes that her artwork can trigger a conversation about the true language in people’s relationships.

Soo Shin’s artworks have been exhibited in Seoul, Korea; Berlin, Germany; Chicago and New York. To view her works, visit the artist’s website at www.soooshin.com.

For information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, e-mail dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit the Dittmar website at www.dittmar.northwestern.edu.