Creating complex and intricate adornments in hair using knotting and weaving has been a part of the human culture around the globe, and through time. Today is no different, except that we can now experience the skill and creativity of hair being woven into art outside of the salon and in the galleries and museums around the world. Here we look at three contemporary artists that are entangled in similar notions of identity, power and underlying functions of personal expression.
DELPHINE DIALLO AND JOANNE PETIT-FRERE
“We are in constant search for wonder and growth. I see art as a vessel to express consciousness and an access to diffuse wisdom, enlightenment, fear, beauty, ugliness, mystery, faith, strength, fearless, universal matter”.
As a Brooklyn-based French and Senegalese visual artist and photographer, Delphine Diallo creates her own visions of mythology. With a background in film and special effects, this can be seen in her layering of fantasy over the reality of the body, creating warrior protagonists to a story not yet told. She often works with artist Joanne Petit-Frèreuses, who weaves hair into intricate masks and armor that both adorn and protect their wearer.
YUNI KIM LANG
“Hair has symbolized so many different things. The obsession we have with our dead hair that we imagine to be full of life is fascinating. It is the part of the body that has no nerves or muscles but has movements and rhythm that feel alive. When you cut it off there is no pain and it does not bleed. Yet, we perceive it as a sacred entity.”
Immersing herself in a personal exploration of her own diverse cultural heritage, Lang’s signature works, “Comfort Hair”, are a quest to define her own identity. She works with textiles and creates surreal visions of hair that both lift up, and ground, the live participants that are required to make the works ‘whole’.
As a Michigan based artist, she references her Korean heritage and the traditional hair pieces, called ‘gache’, worn by women of high status in the 18th Century. The trend at the time was the bigger and heavier the headpiece was, the more attractive and the higher the status of the wearer, and was eventually banned because they were believed to contradict Confucian values of modesty and restraint. Yuni Kim Lang’s interest ultimately lays in how hair has held sacred and non-sacred status through the ages, and how it continues to convey an indication of power.
“Hair represents the beast in us, and once it’s off the body, we think it’s so creepy. It’s a memory of who you are.”
Known for her collaborations with Bjork, Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, aka Shoplifter, uses hair to spin dreams. Shoplifters work explores issues of desire, bodily adornment, vanity, temptation, and naturalism. This is fitting to use on hair as a medium, as it is a natural accessory and source to express ourselves. Her most recent exhibition was a retrospective at the National Gallery of Iceland, titled Neverscape. The exhibition features hundreds of sculptures and installations made of artificial hair, weaves, and fun fur.