Joe Sheehan (1976) studied contemporary jewellery at Unitec in the mid 1990s, and since then has worked in carving studios throughout New Zealand and visited nephrite-jade deposits around the world.
Joe’s jade and pounamu pieces explore the contemporary relevance and position of greenstone carving, with his recent work looking at the commercialisation of the jade industry and the limitations it places on jade’s potential as a medium for relevant art practice. Joe plays with social and cultural contexts and questions the way we see things, making pounamu and jade objects that speak first about their object status and second about their material.
Often his works take the form of personal belongings or common objects like ballpoint pens, sunglasses, batteries, a working light bulb and pounamu cassette tape. Through their familiarity, these meticulously rendered copies play the role of cultural artefact and work to upset the idea that history belongs to someone else.
“Stone and pounamu in particular is so deeply embedded in our history and collective identity that I think almost everyone has some feeling for it. Its significance and loading which offers a unique opportunity, to make art that can speak directly to our culture as a whole.”
In November 2006 Joe was one of the inaugural recipients of the NZ Arts Foundation’s New Generation Awards. These awards, of $25,000 each, are presented every two years to five artists who have demonstrated excellence in the early stages of their careers. In 2008 Joe was invited to represent New Zealand in the 28th Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil. In 2010 he received an Antarctica Fellowship