“Maize”–An Interactive Art Piece with an Inspiring Message

If you’re in Davenport and looking for something fun to do with friends and family, head over to the Figge Art Museum sometime this week. The Figge’s most recent special exhibit is Jean Shin’s Maize, located on the third floor of the museum.

What Shin did with the help of hundreds of volunteers from the Quad City area was construct a three-dimensional maze made entirely of repurposed plastic bottles. You can actually walk through the maze and inspect the hard work put into reconstructing thousands of recycled plastic bottles close up. Viewing the piece in person is really amazing. It makes you feel proud to be part of the Quad City community.

The Figge Art museum is open until 9 PM on Thursdays, 6 PM Tuesday – Saturday, and 5 PM on Sunday. ADMISSION IS FREE FOR EVERYONE EVERY THURSDAY AFTER 5 PM!

If you want to see Shin’s Maize exhibit, you’ll need to stop in sometime this weekend because it’s only available until September 24th!

If you would love to take a look at the exhibit but have plans for this weekend already, keep reading. I’ve included pictures from the exhibit and an in-depth analysis of the piece (if you art nerds are interested.)


An analysis of Jean Shin’s Maize

Jean Shin utilized the used plastic bottles we would normally throw away to create a realistic maze. Suitably named Maize, this maze of plastic bottles is meant to be explored. Shin stacked and cut the plastic bottles to look like tall cornstalks—a realistic corn maze you might see on a farm. Shin also received help creating the work from hundreds of volunteers of the Quad City community. These volunteers performed a number of tasks including retrieving littered plastic bottles, gluing the stalks together, and cutting the bottles to appear like leaves. Visitors of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa are encouraged to venture through the short maze and make it to the other side. Maize, made entirely out of green plastic bottles on cardboard, can be admired from multiple angles because it’s designed in several three-dimensional chunks of stalks.


An important element of art Shin utilized in her work Maize was color. In order for the plastic bottles to appear corn-like, she required all of the bottles to be stripped of any visible logos so the audience could clearly see the green color. By using only green bottles, not only does it help the viewer picture the stacks as cornstalks, but it also gives the work unity. Not one stalk or section of stalks sticks out in the piece. Because of the identical green color of every bottle, Maize looks and feels like a unified corn maze.


The scale of Maize is critical to the viewing experience of the piece because the stacks are approximately the same size as fully grown cornstalks that we might see in a field. Anyone whose been to Iowa understands that the state is riddled with long, winding acres of tall, green cornstalks. A fully-grown stalk of corn is about five to six feet tall. Also, corn seeds are planted tightly together—leaving only a good five or six inches of space between each stalk. In order to convey the height and vastness of corn mazes, Shin stacked about nine to ten bottles on top of each other in tightly-packed groups to give each stack the height and mass of normal cornstalks. From a distance, one might even mistake the stacked bottles for a real corn maze. Only upon closer inspection is it clear that the stalks are made up of plastic bottles.

Line is another key element in Shin’s work because it illustrates the order and compactness of real corn mazes. Because Shin wanted to portray a realistic depiction of a corn maze, she decided to stack the plastic bottles in straight lines. Not only does stacking the bottles in straight lines illustrate a clear image of any cornfield, it also gives the piece a sound, orderly structure. If she decided to glue bottles on the sides of other bottles to create curly or unorderly lines, it would be more difficult for the viewer to recognize the piece as a corn maze. It would also be very challenging to navigate if it wasn’t constructed of straight stacks.


When it comes to art, sometimes utilizing everyday items, especially items normally seen as garbage, can be a challenge. In order to create something beautiful out of ordinary elements, Shin combined the idea of cornstalks and recyclable bottles to make a grandiose piece of artwork meant for exploration. Shin’s use of color, scale, and line engrave an image and a belief into viewers’ minds—it’s a maze of corn. Aside from the piece being an actual maze people can navigate, its construction being heavily depended upon by volunteers of the local community brings admirers together. Maize is a very interactive piece with an inspiring message—we should recycle our sustainable resources. We might just come together and create something truly miraculous out of them.


Author: Logan Raschke

I'm just your average sophomore at BHC who loves writing articles. I can't thank the Chieftain's readers enough for their support! If you have questions/concerns/awesome stories you want shared, contact me! Email: lraschke@mymail.bhc.edu