Later, Longer, Fewer: The Work of Jennifer Ling Datchuk
October 2, 2021 — January 8, 2022
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft presents Later, Longer, Fewer: The Work of Jennifer Ling Datchuk, an exhibition of blue-and-white porcelain sculptures, large-scale multimedia installations, and performance video that critiques the realities and contemporary perceptions of women’s access and liberation. Using Asian motifs that are common in blue-and-white porcelain, coupled with the design and material language of domestic objects and feminine beauty products, Jennifer Ling Datchuk elevates stories of silent sisterhood and feminist perspectives while exposing systematic inequities that continue to stifle women’s progress.
As a Chinese American woman, Datchuk delves into the complicated and sometimes overwhelming aspects of growing up in a blended family. She states, “My work has always been an exploration of my layered identity—as a woman, a woman of color, an ‘American,’ and as a third-culture kid.”
The exhibition title, Later, Longer, Fewer, references a 1970s Chinese propaganda poster that encouraged women to take advantage of birth control to curtail the country’s birth rate. Datchuk’s exhibition opens up a conversation about historical civil rights precedents in China and America. She comments, “This message suggests that women have the power and access to resources in order to make these decisions. China enacted the one-child policy and has culturally instilled valuing boys over girls, which has created a huge population gap. The U.S. has politicized birth control and actively passes heartbeat bills to challenge Roe vs. Wade. Access to healthcare does liberate women, but there are many societal, cultural, and political systems in place that continue to hold us back.”
Drawing from her background in ceramics, Datchuk exposes the continued presence of racism and misogyny within the commerce of traditional decorative objects. At the same time, she utilizes the universal familiarity of functional wares as a way to incorporate messages of empowerment for marginalized individuals. Over time, her practice evolved from clay sculpture to mixed media, as she began to focus on domestic objects and feminine spaces. Through clay, synthetic hair, and video, she explores how Western beauty standards influence the Eastern Hemisphere, how non-white bodies are commodified and sold, and how women’s work—largely girls’ work—is a major economic driver, despite the inequities of its workers.
As a part of its exhibition programming, HCCC will invite the public to contribute to Datchuk’s installation by writing words of affirmation on porcelain beads that the artist will braid into a large-scale curtain made of synthetic hair. Stretching nearly 22 feet long, the hair curtain represents the thresholds that individuals cross when encountering different cultural spaces. As symbols of solidarity and respect, the beads, adorned with positive affirmations, serve to metaphorically counteract cultural barriers for marginalized groups. HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall comments, “Utilizing her own identity as a catalyst, Datchuk illuminates the gendered and racial thresholds that exist between different cultural spheres, while also creating opportunities of support and empowerment by inviting individuals to share their stories.”
Later, Longer, Fewer: The Work of Jennifer Ling Datchuk is curated by HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall.
- Jennifer Ling Datchuk, “Thick” (detail), 2019. Fake hair, porcelain beads from Jingdezhen, China. 32 x 10 x 0.42 feet. Photo by Ansen Seale. Photo courtesy of Artpace.
- Jennifer Ling Datchuk, “Thick,” 2019. Fake hair, porcelain beads from Jingdezhen, China. 32 x 10 x 0.42 feet. Photo by Ansen Seale. Photo courtesy of Artpace.
- Jennifer Ling Datchuk, “How I came to my table” (detail), 2019. Porcelain table and stools made in collaboration with a table and stool factory in Jingdezhen, China; blue and white pattern transfers; cobalt decoration. 34 x 34 x 26 inches. Photo courtesy of Women & Their Work.
- Jennifer Ling Datchuk, “How I came to my table,” 2019. Porcelain table and stools made in collaboration with a table and stool factory in Jingdezhen, China; blue and white pattern transfers; cobalt decoration. 34 x 34 x 26 inches. Photo courtesy of Women & Their Work.