Joe Sheehan studied contemporary jewellery at Unitec Institute of Technology in the mid-1990s and since then has established an enviable reputation as one of New Zealand’s most outstanding carvers.
Sheehan’s jade and pounamu pieces explore the contemporary relevance and position of greenstone carving, with his recent work looking at the commercialisation of the jade industry and the limitations it places on jade's potential as a medium for relevant art practise. Joe plays with social and cultural contexts and questions the way we see things, making pounamu and jade objects that speak first about their object status and second about their material:
Sheehan was one of the inaugural recipients of the NZ Arts Foundation's New Generation Awards. In 2008 he was invited to represent New Zealand in the 28th Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil and in 2010 received an Antarctica NZ Arts Fellowship.
His work includes public commissions in Wellington and Auckland and is included in the collections of major institutions including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Te Papa Tongarewa; Auckland Art Gallery; Christchurch Art Gallery and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth.