She was not what I expected. The pretty young woman that stood before us in the art gallery smiled demurely, as she was introduced. It was when she began to speak about her art and her life that I became captivated. There was a power that came from her words. Jenn Hassin spoke with an authority that is usually honed through age and experience.
Hers was a life filled with clashes of the presumed and the unexpected: not the childhood one would hope for, a family friend turned mentor, a stint in the military, a college degree in studio art, a divorce, a single mom, a second marriage, another child and a happy, supportive extended family made up of an ex-husband and his parents. Her personality celebrated a dichotomy of military precision and artistic creativeness. This helped to explain how she single handedly was able to get her work, Letters of Sacrifice, exhibited at the Pentagon.
Kintsugi: that was the philosophy that this exhibit was based on. Jenn went on to explain that the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold dusted lacquer treats breakage and repair as a part of the object’s history. Rather than disguising the damage, it works to make it more beautiful.
Jenn’s art installation entitled Embrace the Damage took over the entire wall. As Jen explained, “…The wall of current newspapers from the U.S. and around the world are folded and assembled in a chaotic, yet systematic manner. They represent my personal feelings regarding the overwhelming nature of our current sociopolitical climate. The woven gold braid meandering through it signifies the crack in society and the beauty and strength that can and will prevail for having gone through our current tensions…”
The second part of the installation, Listen and Repair, was interactive. According to Jenn, “…One of the biggest problems we face today is that we do not listen to one another. This offers the opportunity to cut and then mend a tablecloth together; to commune with one another. A gold thread will be used to mend the tablecloth, creating a seam and a border that both divides and connects. I encourage those who participate to converse with one another. You will be sitting on garments and blankets from around the world; talk to one another about culture or about what is going on around the world. Connect or debate, but above all, hear one another. The outcome of the work when the exhibit ends is to create an image of what listening looks like…”
As she spoke, everything took on a new perspective. Jenn, so youthful, became the wise old sage. Her art, subtle in its tone, transformed itself into a powerful and intense message.
Jenn Hassin’s art is a rich composite of the atypical experiences that have shaped her life. Along with the hands of the many volunteer veterans that have touched so many of her works and helped her to bring her messages to life, so will you be deeply touched.