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A native of the Mahoning Valley in Northeast Ohio, working in Los Angeles and the Midwest, Jennifer Vanderpool values questioning equity issues through art-making. She fabricates prosthetic memories, knitting together stories from her grandparents who immigrated to Appalachia to work in the coal mines and sweatshops, later moving to Youngstown, Ohio, to work in the factories in 1967. She weaves these anecdotes together with her experiences growing up in the Rust Belt in an attempt to understand the regional social history, deindustrialization, and traumas in post-prosperity communities. Her social art practice investigating the working class developed because she learned to embrace her disinvested hometown of Youngstown.
Vanderpool's earlier work encompassed distinctions between natural and artificial. In the essay for Wanton, 2011, at Galería Sextante, Bogotá, art historian Dr. Kevin Concannon wrote: “With Jennifer Vanderpool's sculptural installations it can certainly seem that ‘nothing succeeds like excess.’ While her ultra-baroque sensibility offers viewers a surfeit of visual and emotional pleasures, nothing is squandered.” Art Critic and Independent Curator Shana Nys Dambrot published an essay in the March 1, 2014, Huffington Post about Vanderpool’s exhibition Family Stories/ Сімейні Оповідання, 2013, organized by ArtPlatz in collaboration with the Kroshytskyi Art Museum, Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine. She commented: “In Jennifer Vanderpool's world, history has a way of repeating itself. That is to say, the past has a way of making itself known in her life and in her art. That is not only her own past, such as family heritage and personal experience, but also art history, and also sentiment-rich and bygone times in American and global culture. The artifacts of these realms constitute the raw materials of her objects, installations and images.” For the May 31, 2018 edition of Voice of Vietnam, Abby Chitty wrote about Garment Girl and her current practice: “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.” “With a background in community arts activism, Vanderpool displays many exhibitions all over the world that deal with similar social questions.”
She has exhibited at the National Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow; Kroshytskyi Art Museum in collaboration with ArtPlatz, Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine; Duna Galéria, Budapest, Hungary; Heritage Space, Hà Nội, Việt Nam; Stenersenmuseet, Oslo; RACA, Copenhagen; Kalmar Konstmuseum, Virserums Konsthall, Designarkivet, and Abandoned, Sweden; Nina Menocal Gallery and Zona Maco México Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; Galería Sextante, Centro Colombo Americano, and Mercadito & Mentidero, Bogotá; No Lugar – Arte Contemporáneo and La Huerta y La Maquina, Quito, Ecuador. In the U.S. she has exhibited at Edward Cella + Architecture, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Wende Museum and Cold War Archive, Riverside Art Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, and other venues in Brooklyn, Houston, Atlanta, Kansas City, Tulsa, Los Angeles and around Southern California.
Vanderpool's work has been awarded exhibition funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, US-UK Fulbright Commission, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Ohio Arts Council, Kunstrådet: Danish Arts Council, Kulturrådet: Swedish Arts Council, and Malmö Stad. Vanderpool and the UCSB Isla Vista Liaison were awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America grant for her community art project in Isla Vista, California.
Her exhibitions have been reviewed and discussed in many leading publications including: The New York Times, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Artillery Magazine, ArtScene, Angeleno, ArtUS, Sculpture, Art Ltd., Art Papers, Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, Kansas City Star, and Tulsa World. Internationally her work has been covered in the Mexican publications El Universal and Time Out México, Colombian publications El Tiempo and Fotografia Colombiana, Ukrainian newspapers Slava Sevastopolya, and Sevastopolskaya Gazeta, Danish newspaper Politiken, and numerous Swedish newspapers including Dagens Nyheter and Sydsvenskan. She has been interviewed on CNN, KPCC Southern California Public Radio, Public Radio Tulsa, Sveriges Radio, Lorry København, Ukrainian National Television, Voice of Vietnam, and Vietnam Internet Television (VITV) among others.
She has been a resident artist at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá; HOTHOUSE UCLA/Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance; Pitzer College, Claremont; Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena.
Vanderpool has been a visiting artist speaking at OVERGADEN: Institute for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen; University of Lincoln, UK; Universiteit van Amsterdam and Artez Institute for the Arts, The Netherlands; Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano and Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá; RMIT University, Hà Nội; California College of the Arts, Oakland; Indiana University at Bloomington; Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg; other U.S. universities. In 2019, she spoke about her practice at the Future of Creativity Vietnam conference hosted by the United Nations Vietnam.
Vanderpool’s curatorial projects engage socially constructed questions about the environment, belief systems, gender, and socioeconomics. In 2020, she curated You, Me & They Portraying Us at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles. Vanderpool employed curatorial activism as a mode of inquiry to challenge the assumptions and erasures of voices in hegemonic narratives. Her curatorial strategy for Common Ground: Artists Reimagining Community, 2020, at California Lutheran University, inspired by mutual aid societies, integrated the participatory methods of social practice art to organize communities in debate and collaboration. Her 2016 exhibition Imaginary Selves at the University of La Verne questioned the socio-cultural emerging of self. Vanderpool and Việt Lê co-curated Love in the Time of War, 2016 which queried relationships between war and intimacy, politics and the personal, and the body and the body politic. It was exhibited at UC Santa Barbara and traveled to SF Camerawork in San Francisco. The exhibition was favorably reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle and Temporary Art Review.
The collaborative curatorial team of Ciara Ennis and Vanderpool organized Duty of Care, 2017, at Collective Arts Incubator in Los Angeles that examined social and political obligations to fellow citizens. They co-curated MANIFESTO: A Moderate Proposal, 2018, at Pitzer College Art Galleries, which the National Endowment for the Arts awarded an Arts Works Grant. The exhibition included manifestos created by invited artists that interrogated the current state of our global society. They exhibited these with manifestos produced during art outreach classes at the Inmates’ Art Programs at California Institution for Women Corona and California Rehabilitation Center Norco Men’s Prison Educational Programs.
Vanderpool holds an Independent, Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Art Critical Practices in Trauma Studies from UC Santa Barbara. Her doctoral research fields included Art Theory Praxis, Film & Media Studies, and Germanic, Slavic, and Semitic Studies. She earned her MFA from UCSB where she was a UC Regents Fellow and studied art history at Emory University.