Jennifer Vanderpool presents Garment Girl

(VOVWORLD) - Jennifer Vanderpool is a Los Angeles based artist who displays her work in galleries across the globe. Her current exhibition, Garment Girl, is being displayed at Heritage Space in Hanoi. 

It is a mixed media collection consisting of a three-panel mural of patterned photographic prints showing Vietnamese and American textile factories and video playing interviews with industry workers. Working with a Vietnamese artist, Pham Hong, Vanderpool also exhibits pieces of clothing from the ‘Remade’ workshop the two artists held earlier in the week.

 Jennifer Vanderpool presents Garment Girl   - ảnh 1

Vanderpool uses her own experiences and matrilineal family stories to produce pieces of work that highlight socio-economic issues. Her artwork asks the viewer to reflect on the environment in which these workers must produce the clothing that we all wear in everyday life. Her use of coloured prints contrasts with black and white photographs, drawing out the images and drawing in the observer.When speaking about her work in Garment Girl, Vanderpool says: ‘For Garment Girl I worked with scholars and activists to create this imaginary realism about the sweatshops and laborers. We made these pretty images that if you look at a little bit more closely, are not quite as pretty.’

 Jennifer Vanderpool presents Garment Girl   - ảnh 2

Spectator engagement is an important aspect of this exhibition. In preparation for the opening on Sunday night Vanderpool and Hong held a week-long workshop that invited members of the public, particularly other artists or textile designers, to collaborate in making new clothing from recycled clothes. Speaking about the workshop, Vanderpool explains: ‘making these clothes from old materials aims to create something that would be useful and brings up issues of sustainability. We had discussions about who made this clothing under what circumstances did they do the work.’The link with workers in Hanoi makes the exhibition accessible to viewers and seeing images of Vietnam in Vanderpool’s work makes it relatable and easier to engage with. She clarifies that it was important for her to ‘not come in with this western hegemonic perspective and drop my work in.’

However, something she noted when displaying an earlier exhibition in the Ukraine was that the way people respond to her work is not always what she would expect. Vanderpool’s family heritage plays a large role in the pieces she produces and as her grandfather is Ukrainian she decided to combine family imagery and stories with material culture. She explained that ‘one of the things that I did not anticipate is the Ukrainian people wondered why I was interested in the Ukraine or why my family heritage was important.’ This spurred her onto think about her practice in a different way by taking into account people’s responses to her work. 

With a background in community arts activism, Vanderpool displays many exhibitions all over the world that deal with similar social questions. Her early installations dealt mainly with environmental issues and a narrative in family interest. As her work progressed, new opportunities presented themselves. Vanderpool made connections with independent curators in Colombia and Ecuador and this led to the widening of her subject matter to include international social concerns. Vanderpool’s exhibition in Ecuador dealt with the floriculture industry and in the same way as Garment Girl, drew links between the industries in California and Ecuador. A trans American narrative was born and she began to do interviews with retired labourers and their working conditions in Ecuador. She explains that ‘it really became this process of me researching and learning and then hopefully conveying that through the video work and the prints.’

The showcase of Garment Girl takes place 22 to 30 May from 10am to 5pm at Heritage Space in Hanoi.