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Are any of your new works for this exhibition inspired by plants you've seen at Brooklyn Botanic Garden?
Studio Visit with Jae Hi Ahn in Bed-Stuy
The sculptor's bright plantlike assemblages will be hanging at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this winter.
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Definitely! Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a beautiful conservatory, especially the Orchid Collection and plants in the Aquatic House. I have visited the Garden many times. Whenever I need inspiration to create my own plants (my sculptures), I go there. You can probably tell which one is based on the orchids. I put moss inside the plastic dome and assembled it with wire and PVC tubing. Every season is different, but in winter especially when I feel the need to escape the freezing temperatures, I go to the Conservatory. It's like escaping into a tropical forest. One of my other sculptures was inspired by the Red Flyer hibiscus. It has beautiful red petals, but I was more interested in the green bud before it blooms. I made a fluorescent pink bud with a purple stem. I have also been taking photos of plants in BBG and digitally working on them.
You use a lot of construction materials in you work; is there any material you're interested in using but haven't had the opportunity to explore yet?
Yes, there are a couple of different materials that I've wanted to experiment with. Combining Solar panels and LED lights with my sculptures would be pretty exciting. Also glass attracts me very much. I went to check out Urban Glass
last spring, and it was quite amazing how they blow glass. I hope I get a chance to work with it one day. I'm also interested in using stainless steel and aluminum to make public art with. I'd really like to create a fantastical playground for children. Recently I've been interested in biodegradable plastic, but I haven't found my own way to use it yet.
Are there any artists, exhibitions or individual artworks that have been especially important to you?
When I was studying traditional figurative sculpture in South Korea, I was introduced to < ahref="http://www.calder.org/">Alexander Calder's mobiles. This was my first inspiration. I liked the mobile because it was free from gravity.
After I moved to the U.S. my early work was influenced by Andy Goldsworthy
. Back then I was experimenting with organic materials, mostly edible things like rice flour, sugar, and spices. It's a bit ironic that I use plastics now.
My current favorite artists are Petah Coyne
and Tara Donovan
. When I saw Petah Coyne's work at Galerie Lelong
, I couldn't leave the gallery. It's quite raw and yet incredibly beautiful. And Tara Donovan, I like the way she cares for and treats ordinary objects and creates something special out of nothing. To me, she's like a practicing Buddhist monk.
Most recently I was attracted to Roxy Paine
" on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was fascinated by the way he transformed stainless steel into massive treelike forms.
(Photos by the author)