Artist Spotlight: Vuong Hoang

When asked to describe his art, the first thing junior Vuong Hoang said was: “sad Pinterest girl singing about the end of the world.” 

Hoang is a photographer and videographer, and produces his own music under the name “goodwill jack.” He began creating music early in life and learned to shoot films because he wanted to make music videos. He came to photography later in his career, discovering his love for this medium between film projects a couple of years ago. 

An industry multi-hyphenate, Hoang has experience across a wide variety of artistic pursuits. He worked as a creative director and videographer during a promotional video for a Vietnamese stationary company, was a production assistant on student films, consulted on sound engineering, composed music and made his own short films, photography series and songs. He gained the bulk of his production knowledge through experience, and he writes and edits all of his own music and film scripts. 

Hoang counts Phoebe Bridgers, Bo Burnham and Sufjan Stevens as some of his primary inspirations. Bridgers, especially, inspired Hoang’s obsession with the inevitability of the end of the world. His latest project is a music video for his song, “this is all there is,” exploring the beauty of ordinary life and the inevitable end. General darkness is present, metaphorically and literally, in almost all of Hoang’s art. 

An international student from Hanoi, Vietnam, Hoang is concentrating in Economics and Film and Media Studies. He spent his first year at Colgate attending virtual classes in Vietnam as a result of the COVID -19 pandemic. The 11-hour time difference meant that he finished classes around 5 a.m. and slept during the day. Living the majority of his life at night had a major impact on his art.

“I became very nocturnal, which actually explains a lot about why a lot of my visual art is very night-based,” Hoang said.  “The moment I started shifting my focus towards visual art is also the moment I started […] waking up at 3 p.m.”

Hoang’s experience navigating cultural differences between Vietnam and America has also defined his art. His pseudonym, “goodwill jack,” came from a habit of giving the name “Jack” at American coffee shops and restaurants to avoid the hassle of explaining his real name. Hoang spent the summer after his sophomore year living in New York and has not been back to Vietnam in over a year. Spending so much time in the U.S. has changed how he views the world and his concept of home.

“You either begin to see both places — the one where you come from and the one you’re coming to — as your home, or you start to see neither as home, and I’m more of the latter,” he said.

However, Hoang doesn’t resent feeling adrift. 

“I don’t think there’s anything particularly negative about feeling that way, although it does feel like you’re a bit uprooted all the time,” Hoanh explained.

That feeling of uprootedness is evident in many of his photographs. Hoang’s photograph series “Suburban Fairytale” shows Colgate’s campus soon after he arrived for the first time during his sophomore year. The pictures are gloomy and ethereal and capture the emotional distance he felt toward campus, a vastly different world than the one he left behind.