Before the prevalent use of photography by the public, the trading of locks of hair between lovers, friends and family was a common memento. Locks of hair were pressed between pieces of glass or made into intricate jewelry during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Hair was also collected from family members and formed into individual leaf and flower shapes, arranged in a wreath or bouquet, and displayed in a glass shadow box as an equivalent of a family portrait.
Reconnecting to this bygone cultural practice, I employ the post-modern technique of recontextualizing this practice in our current era, further extending the connection between the medium of hair and the ideas of sentimentality and identity.
In this body of work I exploit the many meanings our contemporary culture associates with hair. Through sculptures made from hair flowing from drainage pipes in the installation titled “Underground” I explore our repressed commonality. Our personal waste is hidden in so many ways, yet collected in common repositories. The result of this marginalized collective activity is exposed in this installation as it brings one into a space where the debris has been made visible.
Other sculptural pieces in this exhibit consist of bars of soap which appear to be growing hair, blurring a number of dichotomies closely associated with our identity such as the animate and the inanimate, disgust and playfulness, as well as cleanliness and uncleanliness.
Cibachrome photographs of hair blown up and magnified into huge organic forms bring to mind microscopic life forms, our biological identity embodied in DNA, as well as a simply pleasing abstract design.
Two dimensional pieces consisting of hair pressed between two pieces of glass shaped to appear as the back of people's heads. The work induces the desire to identify a person with only the evidence of the mane of hair. The piece recalls Magritte’s “La reproduction interdite” and Lorna Simpson's hair photographs.
The concepts presented in this show provoke the viewers to address these dichotomies and thus their own identities.
J.M.M. Wilson III, PhD
This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council.