Press Releases

Artist Jean Shin’s Site-Specific Commission, Perch, at Appleton Farms to Highlight a Threatened Bird Species and Supportive Agroecology Work

Ipswich  |  March 19, 2024

Jean Shin (b. 1971, Seoul, Korea, lives and works in Brooklyn and Hudson Valley, NY), Perch (detail), 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Praise Shadows Art Gallery

IPSWICH, Mass. – Perch, an installation created by artist Jean Shin, will open on Earth Day, April 22, at Appleton Farms in Ipswich. The installation is the latest commission for the Trustees of Reservations’ Art & The Landscape series.

Inspired by Appleton Farms’ history and current ecological and agricultural activities, Perch explores themes of temporality, regeneration, and the relationship between humans and our environment. The artwork integrates into the landscape to support the agroecological work at Appleton and help visualize, amplify, and raise awareness of this work.

“I am so grateful to curator Jessica Hong and the many passionate individuals working at The Trustees for collaborating with me at this deep level and entrusted me in taking this journey together,” Shin said. “Inspired by Bobolinks and their long migration, the project has taught us how we can reciprocate nature’s bountiful gifts by offering a refuge for visitors passing through. Loving a place like Appleton means caring for the land as a habitat for nonhuman species.  Making this relationship visible in Perch has brought so much joy to this community—and this impact is made audible through a multitude of bird songs!”

The installation was informed by dozens of interviews Shin conducted between 2021 to 2023 with Trustees’ staff as well as volunteers who monitor and collect data on migratory and native birds at many Trustees sites. The agricultural, stewardship, and ecology teams at The Trustees work closely to balance the needs of native species with modern agricultural practices. The goals are to develop strategies to create land use practices that encourage biodiversity and interdependence between agricultural production and ecological health.

“We are honored to have this commission from Jean Shin as part of our Art & the Landscape program,” said Katie Theoharides, president and CEO of The Trustees. “Art & the Landscape helps us have conversations with our visitors in different ways and brings them into the important work we do around biodiversity, conservation, and stewardship of our special places. Perch focuses on our agroecology work, which is often unseen by our visitors but is critically important to the balance we must strike between biodiversity and agricultural production.”

A Focus on Bobolinks

Perch focuses on the use of agricultural fields by grassland-dependent birds, such as the bobolink, migratory songbird whose populations are in decline throughout their range. The bobolinks use Appleton Farms’ pastures and hayfields to nest and raise their young. Shin developed Perch after several conversations with Trustees’ ecologists, agroecologists, and farmers. These conversations prompted Shin to learn more about the fragility of bobolinks and their deep connection to the health of our ecosystems.

Bobolinks annually migrate from South America to the Great Plains, New England, and beyond, relying on grasslands and fields often managed as pasture or hayfields where they nest on the ground. Over three months in spring and early summer, these long-distance travelers find their summer homes on the same lands used to grow grass to feed livestock. Yet, without keeping these lands open through regular mowing or grazing, the grassland habitat that the bobolinks require can be lost. This requires a balance of land use and timing of agricultural practices that is rarely practiced in industrial farming. The Trustees’ extensive work to preserve bobolinks’ and other grassland birds nesting grounds on agricultural lands directed and inspired Shin’s work on Perch.

Perch amplifies the agroecological work at Appleton Farms to provide support for bobolinks. Agroecology is sustainable farming that works with nature. It works with farming practices that promote climate change mitigation, works with wildlife, and gives power to the farmers and local communities to use approaches and techniques that work best for the area.

Shin’s Process

Shin is known for her sprawling sculptures and installations, transforming accumulations of discarded objects into powerful monuments that interrogate our complex relationship between material consumption, collective identity, and community engagement. Perch is no exception.

Made from recently decommissioned fence railing built before the 20th century from Appleton Farms, Shin will create sculptural perches intended for use by the bobolinks as perches from which to establish their territories during their breeding season in the northern hemisphere. These wooden fences were made from American Chestnut prior to its near extinction in North America due to an introduced blight. Shin is using the wood as well as salvaged metal from nearby construction projects and scrapyards to create tree-like structures that will be strategically placed in the fields where bobolinks return annually. The perches and their locations were carefully considered to maximize their use by male bobolinks in their annual ritual to attract potential mates.

Additionally, Shin worked with a local tree salvage team in Essex to transform dead and fallen trees on Appleton’s 1,000-acre property into a variety of interactable platforms that will be placed at the edge of fields along walking paths. They will be placed in three locations where annually volunteers conduct a census of the bobolinks and visitors will be able to learn about this community science project and how it protects biodiversity. It is also a space for convening, reflection, and contemplation to consider the complexities of interspecies connection and our relationship with and responsibility for the natural world.

Perch explores timely and timeless issues of our day and bringing this project to fruition with Jean Shin and our incredible collaborators is a testament to the power of the arts to convene, inspire, and even galvanize,” said Jessica Hong, guest curator for the installation.

Born in Seoul, Korea, Shin works in Brooklyn and Hudson Valley, New York. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected in more than 150 major museums and cultural institutions, including solo exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, where in 2020 she was the first Korean American woman featured in a solo exhibition. She has received numerous awards, including the Frederic Church Award for her contributions to American art and culture.

Jessica S. Hong, guest curator, is the Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Toledo Museum of Art where she is responsible for broadening art historical narratives and shaping a dynamic collection and exhibitions program. She was the Associate Curator of Global Contemporary Art at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art and Assistant Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Hong also was part of the new Division of Modern and Contemporary Art that launched at the renovated Harvard Art Museums.

Jean Shin: Perch is organized by guest curator Jessica S. Hong in partnership with The Trustees and staff at its deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, as part of its Art & The Landscape initiative. Lead support for Art at The Trustees is provided by Mr. Richard M. Coffman and Mrs. Gabrielle C.F. Coffman. This project is also supported by Janet and David Offensend, Susan Denison, Pamela B. Weatherbee, Mr. Patrick J. and Mrs. Pamela C. Pedonti, and Valentine Talland and Nagesh Mahanthappa.


More about The Trustees

Founded by landscape architect Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees has, for more than 125 years, been a catalyst for important ideas, endeavors, and progress in Massachusetts. As a steward of distinctive and dynamic places of both historic and cultural value, The Trustees is the nation’s first preservation and conservation organization, and its landscapes and landmarks continue to inspire discussion, innovation, and action today as they did in the past. We are a nonprofit, supported by members, friends and donors and our 123 sites are destinations for residents, members, and visitors alike, welcoming millions of guests annually.