Sunday, December 20, 1998

Mel Chin: Eveready Artist

Written for Houston Sidewalk, 1998

If there was an award for the busiest, most prolific artist of 1998, Mel Chin would be in the running... But didn't he win that award last year? This Houston native is well-known for 30 plus years of socially conscious mixed media works, installations, and monumental sculpture. Not shying away from controversial subjects, Chin continues to tackle some of the most difficult ones – human rights violations, environmental deterioration and erased histories.

Maintaining 3 residences in North Carolina, New York and San Francisco, Chin has been roving the lecture circuit this year from Stanford University to University of Houston. This summer, Chin's work was included in Blaffer Gallery's "Putt-Modernism" exhibition (his contribution to the miniature golf course was "hole number 4" called "Shelter", addressing the bombing of Baghdad during the Gulf War). In October, Chin along with Arlan Huang and Binglee had an exhibit at China 2000, New York, and his one-person show "Inescapable Histories" (traveling through 1999) has made stops at Washington State University and University of Alabama.

Objects from "In the Name of the Place"-- the collaborative project headed by Chin and the GALA (Georgia/Los Angeles) Committee which involved placing discrete conceptual elements on the set of Melrose Place-- were auctioned off at Sotheby's of Beverly Hills in November '98. Proceeds were donated to two women's college funds, the Fulfillment Fund and Jeannette Rankin Foundation. You can find out more about this project at

On the publishing front, Chin's development in land reclamation , Revival Fields -- an ingenious project that uses plants called "hyperaccumulators" to remove heavy metals from contaminated soil, was highlighted in the 1998 3rd edition of "Earthworks and Beyond" by John Beardsley, published by Abbeville Press.

Mel's current work-in-progress is an opera about "warfare in the plant world" called Stimme Von Eden (Voice of Eden). He intends to open the opera in Germany and later tour the U.S. In addition, Chin's collaborative landscape project with Bob Wood, the "Threshold Project" continues at Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California.

And finally on the Houston front, Chin's commission for the downtown Sesquicentennial Park-- seven 70-foot-tall stainless steel columns containing 1,050 drawings by children born in 1986-- was completed in May 1998.