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I feel the capacity to examine one's life is constantly stripped away, actually and, if anything, art can be part of that which re-catalyzes or reanimates that desire to know.

Artist Mel Chin

Which spirit of the land rules over all of us?

Mel Chin: Spirit in the Land is a 7-minute mini documentary about the artist Mel Chin, whose work is part of the exhibition Spirit in the Land. In this video, viewers visit the artist’s western North Carolina studio, where he shares his philosophy on making art and talks about the materials and techniques in his work. The camera zooms in close to Chin’s sculpture, The Bird is the Word (North Carolina Variation), made from carving a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary that was dipped in beeswax and frozen solid. Viewers learn about a second sculpture in the exhibition, Never Forever: The Cabinets of Conuropsis, made of wood, hand-woven tapestry (dyed cotton) and electronic /audio components. Viewers meet Asheville textile artist Amelia Everett, who assisted with Never Forever. Multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork is important to Chin.

Video Credits

This exhibition is organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director, Nasher Museum.

Special Thanks
Mel Chin, artist

Amelia Everett, North Carolina textile artist and studio assistant to Mel Chin

Images of Mel Chin’s work reproduced with permission.

Mel Chin, The Bird is the Word (North Carolina Variation), 2001/2019. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, beeswax, and cherry wood; 11 x 10 x 6 inches (25.4 x 22.9 X 15.2 cm). Courtesy of the artist. © Mel Chin.

Carolina parrot (Conuropsis carolinensis), Plate 26 from Birds of America…, vol. 1 by John James Audobon. Ptc-287. Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History Library.

Webster’s Third International Dictionary, courtesy of Duke Libraries.

Album cover, The Trashmen, Surfin’ Bird, 1963.

Mel Chin, reading excerpt from his poem published in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition Spirit in the Land, edited by Trevor Schoonmaker, 2023.

Video Production Team
Videographer and Editor: J Caldwell
Producer and Videographer: Wendy Hower
Head of Graphic Design: Joel P. Johnson

We don't have the words really to describe extinction. Because what can you say? You're part of an enterprise that destroyed life on Earth.

Mel Chin


Lead support for Spirit in the Land is provided by the Ford Foundation.

Major support for Spirit in the Land is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

At the Nasher, Spirit in the Land is supported by the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; The Duke Endowment; the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Fund for Exhibitions; the Frank Edward Hanscom Endowment Fund; the Janine and J. Tomilson Hill Family Fund; Katie Thorpe Kerr and Terrance I. R. Kerr; Alexandria and Kevin Marchetti; Parker & Otis; Lisa Lowenthal Pruzan and Jonathan Pruzan; and Caroline and Arthur Rogers.


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