EXHIBITION ARTISTS

Hair on Fire
Hair On Fire

May 14 - June 15

Curated by Mark Sloan, “Hair on Fire” represents six contemporary artists who explore the diverse history of human hair through their art—from its significance in mythology, cultural anthropology, fashion, and folklore, to its rich metaphorical possibilities. Each artist creates works that are either made of, incorporate, or relate to the hirsute. Artists featured are Caryl Burtner, Sonya Clark, Talia Greene, Ruth Marten, Althea Murphy-Price, and Loren Schwerd.

Hair Jewelry, 1750-1850 – From the collections of The Charleston Museum
Opening Reception

Group Show
Hair On Fire

Hair has played an important role in art and culture at least since the Egyptians. Facial hair was considered a sign of royal status as evidenced in portraiture of the period. Beards in particular, were so important that Queen Hatshepsut (Maatkare-1473-1458 B.C.) is depicted wearing a false beard in her royal portrait (the first bearded woman?). Contemporary artists often work with unconventional materials to produce their works. In this exhibition, hair is the unifying element explored by these nationally known artists.

Caryl Burtner invites audience participation by having a “clipping station” where viewers can cut off a lock of their own hair to add to her collection. Sonya Clark explores various forms using her own hair and that of friends and family. Talia Greene digitally modifies 19th century photographic cabinet cards featuring portraits of individuals with unusual hair styles. Ruth Marten shows a penchant for the perverse and the absurd in her drawings and prints featuring hirsute subjects. Althea Murphy-Price demonstrates the formal possibilities inherent in synthetic hair as wall reliefs, sculpture, and throw rugs. Loren Schwerd has created a series of portraits of dilapidated post-Katrina houses in New Orleans made out of hair extensions rescued from the debris a flooded hair salon.


Hair on Fire – Essay

This group exhibition features contemporary artists who explore the diverse history of human hair through their art—from its importance in mythology, cultural anthropology, fashion, and folklore, to its rich metaphorical possibilities. Each artist creates works that are either made of, incorporate, or relate to the hirsute.

Hair has played an important role in art and culture since the age of the early Egyptians. Facial hair was considered a sign of royal status as evidenced in portraiture of the period. Beards in particular, were so important that Queen Hatshepsut of Maatkare (1473-1458 B.C.) is depicted wearing a false beard in her royal portrait (the first bearded woman?).

All cultures of the world have adopted folk beliefs concerning the power of hair. The Biblical story of Sampson provides an early example of how important hair is to one’s strength. Victorian Americans used locks of hair to remember and mourn departed loved ones. Then there is the legend of Blackbeard, the pirate who terrified his victims by setting off fireworks in his beard and hair. For Sikh’s “maintaining uncut hair shows a total surrender to the Guru, belief in his or her faith, and a very high self esteem – fear of none and freedom from complexes.” Schools and workplaces often have rules regarding hair length and prohibitions against facial hair for men. With all of this attention to hair, there must be something primal about the relationship between humans and their hair.

For this exhibition, I was interested in selecting artists who each represent a different lens through which to view humanity. Caryl Burtner invites audience participation by having a “clipping station” where viewers can cut off a lock of their own hair to add to her collection. Sonya Clark explores various forms using her own hair and that of friends and family. Talia Greene digitally modifies 19th century photographic cabinet cards featuring portraits of individuals with unusual hairstyles. Ruth Marten shows a penchant for the perverse and the absurd in her drawings and prints featuring hirsute subjects. Althea Murphy-Price demonstrates the formal possibilities inherent in synthetic hair as wall reliefs, sculpture, and throw rugs. Loren Schwerd has created a series of portraits of dilapidated post-Katrina houses in New Orleans out of hair extensions rescued from a flooded hair salon. Taken in total, these artists provide ample evidence that hair is central to the human enterprise.

Mark Sloan
Director and Senior Curator
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Community Partners 2017