“The phrase ‘all over the place’ is often seen as a pejorative, but for me it’s not. This is about the variety of explorations you can do in a lifetime. If I had to be restricted to a single signature style, I don’t know what I would do. Maybe there has been a cost to my career in being all over the place, but a greater cost would be to lose all these ideas and possibilities.”
Mel Chin embraces a broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas. Long-term works include Revival Field (1989-present), a project that pioneered the field of “green remediation,” the use of plants to remove toxic heavy metals from the soil. Another sustained project, Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill (2008-present), focuses on national awareness and prevention of childhood lead poisoning through art-making. The artist is also renowned for his iconic sculptures and installations, works that often address the importance of memory and collective identity, and for inserting art into unlikely places—including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television—in order to investigate how art can provoke greater social awareness and accountability. Chin has received numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council for the Arts; Art Matters; Creative Capital; and the Penny McCall, Pollock Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Rockefeller and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundations..
Mel Chin presented a 2018 program at the Center as part of a series of conversations exploring socially-engaged cultural practice.