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Artist Mel Chin finds new use for encyclopedias

Sept. 2, 2011 at 4:02 a.m.

Mel Chin, a Houston born artist, discusses his art exhibit. Besides the collages made from encyclopedias, there is also a full installation on the outside of the museum titled "The Temple of The New Gods."

As a middle child of six, Mel Chin learned how to express himself creatively.

"I was stuck in the middle," he said jokingly.

Little did he know at the time, a part of his childhood would inspire him to create an artistic masterpiece. His latest work, The Funk and Wag From A to Z, was inspired by a collection of encyclopedias owned by his parents.

It is on exhibit at the Nave Museum. The exhibit will remain up until Oct. 16.

Chin's understanding of art is ever-changing.

"Art represents different things at different times." The Funk and Wagnall's reference books were created in 1953. He was only 2 years old.

Chin took images from the books to make photo collages. The lover of academia wanted to keep the legacy of knowledge.

"Every page, every scrap, has been saved. Nothing was destroyed." The whole collection is in the back room.

Art lovers can have three different experiences in one place. The building's exterior is adorned with basketballs bunched like grapes and leaves made of basketball nets.

"The Temple of the Gods," was inspired by the compelling relationship between popular culture and sports. The collection is a personal twist to compliment the museum's Greek architecture.

The Houston-born artist even made sure the nets were regulation size. "If you start with a concept, you have to respect it," he said.

The show's theme goes from entertaining to enlightening beginning at the Nave's doors.

"It's like walking into an encyclopedia of images," he said.

The newly constructed white walls are filled with collages made with images from the same volume.

The most interior layer will be a 16-foot statue of spider legs. It's Chin's way of paying homage to artists Louise Bourgeois, of France; Jesse Lott, of Houston; and Madeline O'Connor, of Victoria.

"I paid my respects to three people with the best piece I can make," Chin said.

Barron Brown has worked with this artist since 1984. And years later, the chief advocator is still surprised by Chin's work.

"You never know what's next," Brown said. "And that makes things interesting."

Chin grew up in Houston's Fifth Ward and graduated from Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. He now lives in Asheville, N.C.

His art work has made statements all over the world, with an exclamation point. He made a proposal for a New World Trade Center, which reached the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2002.

Chin was also documented in the PBS program, "Art of the 21st Century,"

He was invited by longtime friend Ann Harithas to bring his art work to Victoria. The two have been friends since the 1970s.

Harithas, the exhibit curator, said people are in for a real treat. "They've never seen anything like it," she said. "I've never had."



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