June Ahrens: Drawing the line with wire and safety pins


June Ahrens, a Connecticut-based artist, will exhibit 3 works in DRAWING THE LINE, an exhibition I curated for the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY (February 16-April 2, 2023). The image above is her installation titled NO BEGINNING…NO END. It’s 44 inches in diameter and created with brass, chrome and black metal safety pins that are connected into strands. The artist will install it on the wall with small, straight metal pins. You will see an installation that creates a drawing of a circle.

June Ahrens will exhibit 2 additional works in DRAWING THE LINE – one work, titled CAUGHT, is created with industrial materials, wire and paint; another work, titled TANGLED, is an installation with wire and safety pins. See the images below.

DRAWING THE LINE includes 8 artists – June Ahrens, who draws with wire, industrial materials and safety pins, and 7 artists who create 2D and 3D works and draw circles, triangles, spirals, dots, and grids. Three artists will exhibit abstract drawings and grids on paper done with graphite, pen and ink or colored pencil. One artist will exhibit quilts with embroidered lines on fabric; one artist creates drawings with wire, mesh, metal and wool; one weaves collage with linen strips, paint and cord; one creates assemblage with wood, wire, paint and hardware; one artist creates installations with knots of chenille pipe cleaners.

June Ahrens, CAUGHT

The image above, titled CAUGHT, is a wall installation by June Ahrens that’s 36”W x 36”H x 3”D and created with wire, cement board and paint. This work will be included in the exhibition at the Pelham Art Center. Notice where the wires are attached to the board and to each other, and how they curl around and catch each other. Can you see what’s caught and where?  Notice how some wires are painted the same red orange as the painted strip at the top of the cement board, and how this work is multi-layered with painted blue, green, yellow and purple lines that travel horizontally across the board. Notice all the tiny painted dots that sit below the wires – and more important – notice how the wires that sit above the painted surface cast shadows that create an echo with more lines on the cement board below.

June Ahrens, TANGLED

The image above, titled TANGLED, is an installation June Ahrens created with wire and open and closed safety pins. She will install this 4”W x 20”H x 5”D work on site at the Pelham Art Center. Notice the mass of tangled loopy wires on top and the way the safety pins are hanging on. See a close-up view in the image below.

I asked June Ahrens how the idea for an installation with safety pins evolved. She said the pin pieces were created after 9/11. She was living in NYC at the time, very close to the World Trade Center, and started a series called The Healing Heart Project that used safety pins as a closure for the Hearts in the piece. It became a world-wide collaborative piece.

June Ahrens, TANGLED (detail)

The image above is a close-up view of TANGLED. Notice several large, open pins that project forward.  I asked the artist about the safety of open safety pins. I wonder if there is a message here that safety pins (in spite of their name) might signify things are not always safe. Or, knowing the history of TANGLED and NO BEGINNING…NO END, want to ask: do safety pins intend to make us think about safety in a new way post 9/11?

June Ahrens said: “The materials I use always seem to create unexpected shapes and forms that surprise and stimulate my work. It’s important for me as an artist to “listen” to what the materials say and step out of the way. By working this way, it allows the work to avoid being contrived. The open and closed pins also lend themselves to serve as a design element and create interest and variety. The same approach works when I start to tangle the wires.”

TANGLED made me want to know more about safety pins. I looked online and learned Walter Hunt, American, born in 1796 in upstate NY, received a patent in 1849 for a better safety pin that involved twisting an ordinary piece of wire to create a circular twist at the bend to act as a spring and hold it in place. His invention also included a clasp that covered the point and kept it from opening. This is the design for our modern safety pin. Walter Hunt was finally inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.


June Ahrens created several works with brass, chrome and black metal safety pins. The image above is titled NEW BEGINNINGS. It’s 70”W X 47”H X 2”D, and is now in a private collection. The image below is a close-up view of this work so you can see how the artist attached it to the wall with small straight pins – and how each straight pin is pushed through the circular bend at the back of each safety pin that holds each strand of safety pins that creates this work. Link here for multiple views of this work. 

June Ahrens, NEW BEGINNINGS (detail)


At her website, June Ahrens says “Over the years, my art has explored issues of fragility, vulnerability, danger, and healing. These themes continue to surface, and I respond to them as best I can through a visual language that takes many forms and shapes, often unexpected and surprising. I have learned to let the work lead me and to embrace the openness of what lies ahead. It goes beyond what we know and asks: “What if?”

The artist says she is particularly attracted to industrial materials and everyday objects and thinks manufactured or found materials are seductive because they feed her focus on danger, beauty, darkness, and reflected light. So many of the artist’s works can be site-dependent or stand-alone, depending on the exhibition space. June Ahrens says she isolates these materials to encourage the viewer to consider the open-endedness of the work and to remind us of the need for social ritual and political discourse. She says she works intuitively for the most part and tries to be aware of what the pieces require to make them resonate.

The following images show large and small installations with wire and glass, and wall works created with cement board, plastic grids, wire, and other materials.


The image above is an installation the artist titled THE DAY THE SKY FELL. It’s 90” H x 38” W x 35” D, created with cord and recycled blue, red and green glass. In the image you see it’s suspended from the ceiling and almost touches the floor. I asked June Ahrens about the shadows you see on the wall behind this work. She said: “Shadows have been an important part of many of my works, including THE DAY THE SKY FELL. My interest in shadows is that they extend the imagery in a different way, giving the viewer another way of experiencing the piece.


The image above is an installation titled HOW MANY TEARS ARE ENOUGH? It was installed at UConn’s Stamford Art Gallery and was reviewed in Arts Magazine by Dominick Lombardi (November 22, 2019). June Ahrens created HOW MANY TEARS ARE ENOUGH? as a memorial to the victims of gun violence and says: “While victims of gun violence may be gone in an instant, memories survive and remain imprinted on our lives. The Mylar floor reflects the hanging flowers and thorny vines hanging above, multiplying the opportunity—and hopefully intensifying the desire—to honor and respond. The shadows created by the flower shapes, thorns and knots may resemble a river of flowing tears but also symbolizes renewal, nourishing our hearts and minds amid the reality of absence and loss.” She says her hope, in sharing these emotions, is that the viewer will be drawn into an ever-deeper commitment to demand change in both gun and mental health laws. 

Link here to see a Youtube video with multiple images of the installation plus a link to the Artes Magazine exhibition review.

June Ahrens says she wants her installations to create a map of awareness for people. She quotes Ishmael Beah from his novel Radiance of Tomorrow“A cry, almost a song, to mourn what has been lost while its memory refuses to depart, and a cry to celebrate what has been left, however little, to infuse it with residues of old knowledge.” 

June Ahrens doesn’t reconfigure her installations when they are installed at different exhibition sites. She says she sometimes must add or subtract materials, depending on the site and space available for a new installation.


The image above is titled BREAKING THROUGH THE DARKNESS. It’s mixed media with industrial filters, wire, paint, glitter and mylar, 23 H x 42” W x 1” D. I asked June Ahrens if she manipulated or altered the media in this work to create a sense of breaking through the darkness. She replied: “I think the following quote by Bertold Brecht describes the title BREAKING THROUGH THE DARKNESS best: “

In the dark times, will there be singing?

Yes, there will be singing.

About the dark times.

-Bertold Brecht

June Ahrens, PUSHING OUT

The image above is titled PUSHING OUT. This 10” x 7” x 1 ½” is a small mixed media work, created with cement board, plastic grid, and wire, and dated 2020. Notice the tangle of white and blue wires that project out from the black plastic grid that sits on a painted black cement board. I told the artist the grid looks like the barrier in a jail cell and asked her: Is this work about a need to escape from a confined space? June Ahrens said the blue wire might be expressing hope!

June Ahrens, SEARCHING

The image above is a diptych titled SEARCHING, 40”H x 60”W x 2”D. June Ahrens created this work with industrial filters, wire, paint, glitter, and mylar on the bottom layer. The glitter is incorporated on the back and on the front. The wires are interwoven and create tangled lines that meander across the two panels that create the diptych. June Ahrens said the wire lines integrate both halves of the diptych, break up the visual surface of the piece and provide a slower read of the work. I asked June Ahrens: What are the lines searching for? She said: “That’s up to the viewer.”

Recent Shows


June Ahrens installed 2 site-specific installations in 2022 titled REFLECTING TIME at the Housatonic Museum of Art, Housatonic Community College, in Bridgeport, CT (September 8-October 22, 2022).  The image above shows the installations included a mandala of decayed flowers (18’ in diameter) placed directly on the floor. Link here to see additional images of the site-specific installation found on the artist’s Instagram site.

June Ahrens graduated from Purchase College, New York, with a BFA (Summa Cum Laude). She attended the Advanced Seminars at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. 

She has participated in numerous one-person shows, group exhibitions, and collaborative installations. Her work has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Duracell and Polaroid Foundations. She was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant, was granted the Distinguished Advocate for the Arts Award by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and was also awarded an Individual Artist’s grant. 

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City Missouri, acquired an installation by June Ahrens for their permanent collection and her work is included in the collections of the Trustman Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, the Housatonic Museum, the Contemporary Gallery of Art and Sacred Heart University (both Connecticut), and numerous private collections. 

Link here to the artist’s website to see all her early, recent, and current works, installations, photo and digital works.  

Link here to see a digital drawing titled WHITE FLOWER on the artist’s Instagram site. It’s  a tangled, electrified white line, suspended in digital blue. The artist said she created digital works and photos during the Covid lockdown. This work is available as a print in a limited edition of five on 11” x 8” photo paper.

Thank you for reading about June Ahrens and her work. Please stay in touch to see additional interviews of artists in the exhibition that I will post at Art of Collage. Please save the date – Thursday, February 16, 2023, 6:00-8:00 pm for the opening reception for DRAWING THE LINE at the Pelham Art Center. 

Your comments are welcome. 

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