It’s something about that hair…
During February 2022, I decided to challenge myself.
For some reason, I didn’t believe I was the type of person who creates art every day so I decided to prove to myself that I am. While I didn’t create and post a work of art every single day as I planned, I successfully made a regular habit of creation and channeled a creative limitation that allowed me to truly see my muse– the hair of Black American women.
I emphasize American because Blackness is not monolithic. It varies across the diaspora and every unique experience should be appreciated in its own right. For Black Americans, our hair journeys began on the plantations of the South. Our styles and knowledge to date stem from the innovation and intention of our ancestors. Our braids were their road maps. Our fashionable scarves were once evidence of their forsakenness.
With us, the journey is important.
What inspires me the most about our collective hair voyage is the shift. On some day, a strong flood of pride submerged the Black community. We grew an affinity for our locs and came to the group understanding that Black is beautiful.
Working on this body of work has changed the way I look at hair. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s.
No longer do I dread doing my hair. I now understand it as a ritual of self care, cleansing, and reset. Years ago, I constantly dyed and straightened my waist-length hair. When I noticed the lenses of fetishization and exoticization that people viewed me through by way of my hair, I started to see myself through this lens as well and I didn’t like it.
People always referred to me as “the light skinned girl with the curly hair”. I embraced it for some reason, but eventually it made me cringe. People were so obsessed with my hair. “Don’t ever cut your hair!” “Girl, you got that good hair!” “I wish I had hair like you!” At times, it felt kind of weird, I can’t lie.
Then the weirdest thing happened.
My dad died.
He loved my hair. He would always touch it and encourage all the styles I tried. He was also one of those “never cut it” people. So days after I got the news, that’s exactly what I did.
I figured, if I could adjust to having short hair, I could adjust to my life without my dad, and I guess I did.
Cutting my hair was such a turning point in my journey. Everyone thought I was crazy but it looked amazing. My hair was so healthy and free. My curls that were damaged from years of heat and dye became coiled to their heart’s desire. It felt so good knowing I did it myself and did it well. It was so spontaneous and made me feel badass. It challenged me to look at myself and my hair differently. I fell in love with it in a whole new way.
I decided to share this love through art, of course. In recreating hair images from my childhood such as Knockers and Barrettes and Blue Magic I connected with many Black women over their hair stories and I wanted to continue this study and the joy that it created.
This year, I am continuing to explore the world of Black hair through the textures reminiscent of my childhood. I have been utilizing mixed media as my medium for bringing these memories to life. In my latest collage I Got A Colorful Aura, I enjoyed working with felt, barrettes, and hair beads to create a portrait of a woman with a popular Black American style. Working with these materials inspire me to connect with my inner child and explore more of what she wants to say.