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Student Wins NICHE Award and Sculpts Her Future


The Tree by Yu Jean Choi: NICHE Award
Inspired by the beauty of nature, Academy of Art University MFA Fine Art Sculpture student Yu Jean Choi won a NICHE Award in the Student Category for her sculpture entitled The Tree.


The NICHE Awards program began in 1989 to recognize excellence in American and Canadian fine art and crafts, from sculpture to fashion accessories. Artists are honored in both Professional and Student Categories. The awards are sponsored by NICHE magazine, which covers the art and craft industry for independent retailers.

Made of copper and finished with a saw dust patina, The Tree encapsulates Yu Jean’s memories of the natural world.

“It depicts a scene where the sky is viewed through a giant decomposing tree trunk with the sun penetrating the branches that surround it,” she said. “It was a successful attempt to capture the vivid scenarios I observed while taking a walk in the woods—the tree, the sun radiating through the leaves that bounced on the branches and scattered the brilliant light on the forest floor.”

Reflection by Yu Jean Choi: Spring Show

Using primarily metals, Yu Jean combines a variety of techniques to create her pieces, from coloring and texturing to chemical processes to create a unique patina or finish. Her work seeks to invoke the essence of nature rather than being an exact copy of natural forms.

For Yu Jean, Fine Art Sculpture was a clear choice of study. “I do it because it gives me pleasure in work like no other. It is difficult to describe the feeling that I experience while I work, but it is simply both serene and thrilling at the same time,” she said. “It feels like sculpting is my life goal.”

Two of Yu Jean’s pieces were featured in last year’s Spring Show, including a sculpture titled Reflection and another piece that invokes nature, which was also called The Tree.

The Tree by Yu Jean Choi: Spring Show

Not content with her own successes, Yu Jean would like to one day share her passion for art with others by becoming a sculpting instructor. “Academy of Art University has given me the opportunity to learn more than I already knew and has exposed me to various opportunities,” she said, explaining why she would like to some day teach others.

In that same spirit of sharing her talent, Yu Jean offers this piece of advice for her fellow students: “Being an artist is no easy deal. However, I pursued it because it was my dream. Work hard toward your dreams no matter the circumstances—one day you’ll achieve them and be truly satisfied with what you do.”

NICHE Award winners are featured in the Spring 2011 issue of NICHE magazine.


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