2021 Deinum Prize recipient challenges fast fashion, conformity and gender norms with multimedia project

Garrett Recker, 2021 recipient of Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs
Garrett Recker, 2021 recipient of the Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs

Portland State University School of Film student Garrett Recker has been awarded the 2021 Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs from the PSU College of the Arts. The award comes with a $10,000 prize, which Recker will use to create “BORN,” a multimedia exploration of the LGBTQ+ experience as it relates to gender expression, through the lens of the fast fashion industry.

Recker’s project seeks to critique fast fashion and its reliance on conformity with gender norms and the ideal body type. He aims “to explore and expose another of fast fashion’s downsides: its undermining of self-acceptance and body image through the proliferation of apparel that reinforces thinness and the gender binary as norms,” Recker writes in his project proposal.

The Deinum selection committee was impressed by Recker’s artistic engagement with these powerful social issues, and the ways in which his project affirms Andries Deinum's belief that art, in his words, "is nothing at all unless it is equipment for living." 

"Beyond [his technical skills], Garrett’s personal narrative is very compelling," says Ginny Adelsheim, a member of the committee. "Having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood, he has had years to experience the impact of fast fashion on himself and the LGBTQ+ community. As gender evolves to embrace many beautiful variations, BORN can be a beacon to those seeking to free themselves from the cis trap. I look forward to seeing Garrett’s completed project."

Recker, who graduates this month with a Bachelor of Arts in Film, has planned an ambitious project in two parts. First, a photography exhibit will feature interviews and photos of young LGBTQ+ adults, age 18 to 25, from across Oregon, sharing dual life-size images depicting on the one hand their usual outward presentation, “how the world sees them,” and on the other, “how they want to be seen,” says Recker. Second, a film in three acts, inspired by experimental cinema, will explore Recker’s own relationship with clothing, exposing the fast fashion industry’s role in promoting restrictive body ideals, and challenging these norms through the creation of a gown out of deconstructed, reclaimed fast-fashion attire. 

“While liberating in the affordability and accessibility it allows for, fast fashion constrains us to predetermined models and archetypes of shape and identity,” Recker says. “For many people, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community, these forced conformities create a harmful dissonance between the internal self and the self we are able to outwardly project. As the name implies, ‘BORN’ seeks to highlight the birth of an LGBTQ+ identity that has broken free from fast fashion, and emerged into a new space that allows for healing and a more authentic identity.”

“The piece not only calls on the viewer to reflect, but also to look past the distractions of color and pattern indicative of fast fashion, and focus instead on the contours and shapes, and on the emotions embodied therein,” Recker says. Therefore, “the piece will exist entirely in black and white. The film will also be shot in 4:3 ratio, which when accompanied by black and white film, will draw upon the cultural memory of old film formatting to evoke a sense of reminiscence.” 

Recker plans to consult professional and student designers, choreographers and textile experts, including Alison Heryer of PSU’s School of Art + Design, in the making of the community-based project. 

“I only hold a piece of a larger conversation,” Recker says. “I've amassed an extremely diverse team that I will guide and collaborate with to execute this project in its most authentic form.”

“My work is driven by the idea that it has to tell a story that is beneficial to a minority or somebody who doesn't receive representation, because I didn't get that growing up,” Recker says.

In addition to his film studies at PSU, Recker works as a filmmaker and producer, creating short films and marketing campaigns for agencies and other clients. Upon completion of the project, with a full-scale exhibition in Fall 2022, he plans to seek opportunities for further exposure at film festivals and art exhibits, along with a continuing online presence.

About the Andries Deinum Prize

Recker is the sixth recipient of the Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs, the largest cash award in the PSU College of the Arts. The prize is given to a student who is committed to expanding public dialogue via creative artistic expression, original research or an innovative project highlighting the role and value of art in the 21st century. 

The prize is named for the late film educator and PSU professor Andries Deinum (1918-1995), who transformed Portland’s cultural and intellectual landscape through his innovative use of film in education. The prize was established with gifts from devoted former students, colleagues and others inspired by Deinum’s humanist values.

2021 Andries Deinum Prize Jury

Ginny Adelsheim, PSU ’70
Artist and co-founder, Adelsheim Vineyard 

Drake Ramberg, PSU ’85
Blue Ribbon Studio, Nike

Dámaso Rodríguez
Artistic Director, Artists Repertory Theatre

Michael Tingley
Principal, Bora Architects 

Jim Wygant, PSU ’64
Community arts supporter

Learn more about Recker's work.