Featuring Jennifer Ling Datchuk
“If we could watch in secret the rape of each lock, we should be able to give a series of pictures of human agony such as life but rarely presents, for we may be sure that, as a rule, a young woman almost as soon lose her life as that glorious appendage, on which so much of her beauty depends.”
- Andrew Wynter, “False Hair: Where it Comes From”, Our Social Bees, London, 1866.
Hairs are tiny threads that link us to our past and present stories. These delicate strands have the power to identify us to the world, and this world can make assumptions about us based on its shape, color, and condition. Hair is contradictory; it is desirable or disgusting, pure or processed, innocent or sinful, an afterthought or a crowning glory. It is an extension of the body that grows in the womb before birth, and in the coffin after death, and the rate or length of growth is beyond our control. In Dark and Lovely, my focus is the emotive power of domestic objects and rituals that fix, organize, soothe, and beautify our hair – our lives.
My work has always dealt with identity, with the sense of being in-between, an imposter, neither fully Chinese nor Caucasian. I have learned to live with the constant question about my appearance: “What are you?” I change my response depending on my hair, make-up, clothes, what I am doing, where I am at, or what I am eating – who I am at the moment. I find people are rarely satisfied with my answer. I explore this conflict through my chosen media – porcelain, which nods to my Chinese heritage but also represents “pure” white – the white desire I find in both cultures. Bound by these conditions, I stitch together my individual nature, unravel the pressures of conformity, and forever experience pain in search of perfection.
Jennifer Ling Datchuk is a ceramic sculptor and artist born in Warren, Ohio and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother came to this country in the early 1970s from China; her father born and raised in Ohio to Russian and Irish immigrant parents. Beyond initial appearances, the layers of her parents’ past and present histories are extremely overwhelming and complicated – a history of conflict she has inherited and a perpetual source for her work. She captures this conflict by exploring the emotive power of domestic objects and rituals that fix, organize, soothe and beautify our lives. Trained in ceramics, the artist works with porcelain and other materials often associated with traditional women’s work, such as fabric, embroidery, and floral patterns, to discuss fragility, beauty, femininity, identity and personal history.
She holds an MFA in Artisanry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a BFA in Crafts from Kent State University. In 2010, she was awarded a grant from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio and travel grant from Artpace to research the birthplace of porcelain in Jingdezhen, China. Currently residing in San Antonio, Texas, where she maintains a studio, teaching practice and small design line of ceramic objects for the home.
View more of Jennifer's work at http://jenniferlingdatchuk.com/.