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<thumb_Hoppy_3_Think of Jason Hackenwerth's exhibit as children's balloon art on steroids. >

Giant, colorful balloon sculptures will overtake the Bryan Fine Arts Building at Tennessee Tech University Feb. 21-26, all part of an installation by the New York sculptor and performance artist. This is a Center Stage event, which is free and open to the public.

Hackenwerth will discuss his work during a public lecture at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 24 in Johnson Hall, Room 103. A reception follows in the atrium of the Bryan Fine Arts Building.

Hackenwerth's massive balloon sculptures are made out of thousands of balloons that, once inflated, bring to life animals, microorganisms and even structural engineering feats of nature like coral reefs.

Hackenwerth's piece "The Megamite," inspired by the bed bug epidemic is an example of his balloon sculpture-as-performance approach.

"I make an insect-like wearable sculpture with latex balloons and use it to maraud, flirt and antagonize viewers. After, the sculpture is destroyed in front of or sometimes by those who had been confronted," he writes. "The work expresses an allegory that is experienced personally between the artist and the viewers. In this process, the object is obliterated, leaving behind only the participants."

Hackenwerth earned his bachelor of fine arts degree from Webster University in St. Louis and his master's of fine arts from Savannah College of Art and Design. He has exhibited internationally, with solo exhibitions and performances at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, Art Basel in Miami Beach, the City Museum in St. Louis, Jang Heung Art Park in Seoul, and the Scope Art Show in London. Group exhibitions include the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Vara Global in Venice and the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, Calif.

Hackenwerth was a featured speaker at the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference TED in Palm Springs in 2009 and was awarded a Scope Roving Artist Grant for the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005.