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Arts & Culture

The Helium-Filled World Of Artist Jason Hackenwerth

This morning on "These Days," we talked with New York-based artist Jason Hackenwerth about his giant balloon sculpture currently on display in the "Animal Art" exhibit at The New Children's Museum.

Using thousands of balloons, Hackenwerth makes sculptures that look like aerial jellyfish on helium steroids...or big floating amoebae... or buoyant coral reefs. They are all creatures from his imagination, even if inspired by the natural worlds of the sea and micro-organisms. These sculptures also deflate over time, which Hackenwerth likens to the universal life cycle.

When you see these things, you come to understand why Hackenwerth has blown up (oh yeah, I did it) in the art world since finishing his MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design. He has exhibited internationally, including at the Venice Biennale, and throughout the US. He was also a featured lecturer at the always interesting Technology, Entertainment, and Design Conference (TED) in Palm Springs in 2009.


Despite all the art-world acclaim, Hackenwerth still resorts to street busking with his balloons for a little grocery money now and then.

When "Animal Art" first opened, I went to check it out and Jason was there building his piece (his mother was actually there helping. How sweet!). It was easy to see the performance artist side of Jason, as he walked about 20 kids through the process of making balloons into animals. Though there was a lot of popping and squeaking, the kids were thrilled. Check out the pictures in the Photo Gallery.