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 textiles and hair, to discuss fragility, beauty, femininity, intersectionality, 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. She has received grants from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio, travel grant from Artpace, and the Linda Lighton International Artist Exchange Program to research porcelain clay as a conceptual material. She was awarded a residency through the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum to conduct her studio practice at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, Germany and has participated in residencies at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, Vermont Studio Center, and the European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands. In 2017, she received the Emerging Voices award from the American Craft Council. Currently residing in San Antonio, Texas, where she is a Professor of Art at the Southwest School of Art. On Inauguration Day 2017, she opened the Porcelain Power Factory, a 4 year body of work that reclaims the past lives of objects to raise the social awareness of causes that we need to fight for.
My work has always been an exploration of my layered identity – as a woman, a woman of color, as an “American,” as a third culture kid.
I live at the intersection of being neither fully Chinese or Caucasian, a sense of being in-between, seen as an imposter on either side. The constant question about my appearance – So, what are you? – has driven a series of different answers in my work over time. I explore this conflict specifically through porcelain, a nod to my Chinese heritage, but also a representation of “pure” white, a desire reflected in both cultures. Porcelain allows me to speak in dualities, especially of fragility and resilience and ultimately the struggle between diversity and the flawless white body.
Trained and educated traditionally in ceramics, my practice evolved from sculpture to mixed media as I began to focus on domestic objects and the feminine sphere. Handwork and hair both became totems of the small rituals that fix, smooth over, and ground women’s lives. Through these materials, I explore how Western beauty standards influenced the East, how the non-white body is commodified and sold, and how women’s – globally, girls’ – work is still a major economic driver whose workers still struggle for equality.
Americans are being confronted with their icons, their fetishes, their appropriations and have a constant desire for authenticity. Most of the objects we access are designed, produced, manufactured, sold, and consumed without conscious knowledge of the source. Working with porcelain, blue and white patterns, stereotypically Asian motifs, textiles, video, and photography allows me to examine what we see as our “dominant” material culture. Bound by these conditions, I stitch together my individual nature, unravel the pressures of conformity, and forever experience pain in search of perfection.