Sunday, December 30, 2007

Using hair

For a few years now I've been fascinated by artworks that are made of or incorporate real hair. I remember the first time I saw a contemporary artwork made of hair. It was in 2005 in Melbourne and it was Helen Pynor's Shadowbreath (see above) I was quite bewitched by the work and found it hard to leave the gallery. The incredible human presence captivated me.
Ever since I have wanted to include hair in my own work. For the past year I've been collecting the clippings that fall to the floor every time I have my own haircut. Unfortunately, I wear my hair short, so there isn't a lot to collect and the pieces are only short. I wasn't really sure what I was going to use the hair for, I just knew that I would use it eventually.

A few weeks ago my mother had her long white hair which she wears in a French roll cut off. She is in her 80s now and for some time has been finding that brushing and washing her hair made her back ache. She always receives compliments for her hair and I think it was a tough decision for her to make, but in the end practicality won the day. When she told me she had finally done it, my first question was "what did you do with the hair?" Fortunately, her hairdresser (who visits her at home) had bundled it all up in newspaper before popping it into the bin. My mother was only too happy to rescue it and put it aside for me. She finds a lot of my work pretty mystifying, but she seems thrilled at the idea that she, in the form of her hair, will be making a powerful contribution to my work, and will "live on", as she says.

Access to some lovely long hair has set my mind spinning with ideas and I am trying to capture them in my diary lest they disappear into the black cavern that occupies the space formerly known as my memory. It seems to me that these works will form a more cohesive group with the ones I have already completed for my masters, than the book I mentioned here. So...despite the start I have made on it, that book is to be relegated to "future projects" for now.

It seems like an unfortunate disruption to the flow of my work, but I haven't had the luxury of a "flow" for a while...progress seems to be coming in fits and starts. I would have had to take a break from it for a while anyway, because I have to put together at least one more edition of "Like Weather" to send off to Mackay for the Libris Awards. I also have to prepare for an exhibition in Melbourne in February. I'll be showing an installation I exhibited here in Brisbane in 06 at the National Ceramics Conference. It's called "Wraith" and some of you may have seen the photos of the original over in my photostream on Flickr. There is also a little mention of it in the profile here. There will obviously be more as the date approaches.


  1. Hi What an interesting idea. Personally I always find hair 'out of context' a bit spooky: must be haunted from my youth by that old David Bowie line '...keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear' !

    However I did see a really interesting textiles show in October at our local gallery ( where an artist called Bharti Parma had made 21st century versions of Victorian samplers and some were made sewn on linen with hair -- mainly black Asian hair (I think she's of Indian or Pakisatni origin). Although it 'creeped me out' they were v. beautiful and and incredibly intricate. I know someone else at college who used hair too but they got all their material from the local hairdresser in binbags --- yuk !

    As it's your Mum's hair I imagine you could do some very beautiful and evocative work with it ---especially as she has had the same style for so long. My mother-in-law had beautiful white hair always worn in a french pleat and it was so sad when they had to cut it off when she became too ill and frail to maintain the coiffure: didn't look like her anymmore. I imagine it was quite traumatic for your Mum, if more practical.

  2. Hi cusp, Yes I think it was very difficult for my mother...another one of many losses that old age seems to bring. Hmm, I'm getting a bit morbid, I think...

    I know what you mean about hair being a bit "spooky" or "creepy" has that effect on me too, and I think that is part of its attraction. I have to say I couldn't bring myself to use hair I just collected from the hairdresser, even tho' it would be clean presumably, seeing hairdressers always wash hair before they cut it. Actually, I find really long hair creepy even when it's still attached to someone's head. You know you see people with hair down to their waist or their always makes me think of a huge dead creature on their back...too much Cousin It in the Adams Family when I was a child, I guess!

  3. I'm all for the recycling things back into our art but I must admit that I find the hair thing a bit creepy, but also kind of fascinating at the same time. There is that part of you that feels compelled and curious regardless of your first thoughts. Really when you think about it, everyone's hair is dead anyway so it's not that much different, it's just not attached to a head!

    Happy 2008 to you Amanda, may the new year bring you all that you dream of and more.

  4. Yeah I know exactly what you mean, azirca. I love the fact that it's both delicate and that there's a bit of a "yuk" factor...and it's not as off-putting as some things people use...

  5. Another artist who works with hair is Masako Takashi ( I know this because I've got herhusband's book "On Mexican Time" and I looked her up the other night.