Like many Korean families, artist Ema Shin’s relatives maintain a genealogy book called a jokbo, which illustrates their family tree. Shin’s ancestral record spans 32 generations, yet only male members of the family are represented. Born and raised in Japan, and currently based in Melbourne, Australia, the artist describes in a recent statement that “in the society that I was born and raised in, there was a prejudice between men and women, and their roles were predetermined. I always felt uncomfortable with this inequality.” In her series Hearts of Absent Women, she celebrates and recognizes women whose achievements remain obscured by history.
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Heart-shaped forms made from fabric are elaborately embellished with colorful threads and beads in an homage to the organ’s connection with emotion and vitality. They are nearly life-size, and the range of woven and stitched textures are captivatingly tactile. Both anatomical and fanciful, the arteries, veins, and ventricles become distinctive expressions in needlework that reflect strength, resilience, and individuality. Since becoming a mother herself, Shin has been particularly interested in honoring women’s lives and bodies, recognizing the anonymous contributions of those in her family and around the world and acknowledging their stories for the future.
Some of Shin’s work can be seen at the Victoria Craft Awards 2021 exhibition through May 21. She has limited-edition prints from the series for sale on her website, and you can also follow her on Instagram.