Jon-Erik Hem

Driving home on a snowy night seven years ago, my vehicle veered off course. Regaining consciousness, a tree was now occupying my previously empty passenger seat.  While struggling to come to grips with what just happened, a breath beyond the void ignited a flame that called my name. The universe was not calling for my death but for aspects of my life to die. A couple on their way home from Christmas shopping saw my vehicle on fire within the treeline. The rescuer cut me free from more than just my fiery pyre when he extracted me. After breaking the chains of a life that I used to live, I am no longer the same man. 

I spent four summers in Chitina, Alaska working as a fishmonger. Much of my time was spent hiking and exploring the wilderness. I became an amateur archaeologist as I trekked through mountain trails near the once-abandoned town. When their mine closed in 1938, everyone left all their valueless possessions behind. Excavating these abandoned utilitarian items, I became fascinated with their excellent craftsmanship, and the erosion and corrosion these artifacts sustained through the harsh Alaskan environment.

Derelict objects exhibit the evidence of the life that they lived; the patina of both use and neglect is narrative. Recontextualizing these eremitic objects transforms and redeems their hierarchical value. Through identification with these worn objects I honor their imperfections as well as my own.

Inspired by the craftsmanship and patina I admire from those artifacts, I craft non-objective sculptural forms. Many of these artworks are introspective and inspired by my life experiences and the idea of man-made objects being reclaimed by time. I invite the viewer to insert their own narrative and hierophany into the found images and objects.

Constructing both architectural and destructive organic forms explores our human tendency to both build and destroy. There is something special about realizing the perfectly imperfect object. It takes the willingness to fail along with determination to create sculptures that appear as timeless relics.

To be broken is to be human.