Art Made With Human Hair
Everlasting Locks: Popularity of Art as Hair
From the 1400s to the 1800s, hair art was all the rage in both Europe and the U.S. Why? Immortality of course. What one usually did when creating a piece of hair art is take hair from family members to create paintings, bracelets, wreaths and all sorts of other objects. Generations were conserved in this way in a piece of work that reflected some part of their ancestry.
The photo on the right is a piece that can be found in Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri and is a great example of this kind of art in action. It is made up of braided hair from family members around a detailed history of marriages and births. This museum is full of many other works of art including wreaths and portraits with hair.
Tangles in Time: Why Make Art From Hair?
The main idea behind all this work was that hair lasts longer than any other media. Crack open a sarcophagus in an Egyptian tomb and one thing you will notice is that the hair of the mummy is still in tact, even as its skin has shriveled up.
One common misconception when it comes to the dead is that for some time after death, hair and nails continue to grow. This is false. The reason behind this idea is because hair looks bigger once the skin dries out. As flesh fades and bones crumble to dust, the one thing that remains is hair. This is why it was considered a perfect media in an age without photography for creating art that would keep one's family from being forgotten as years go by.
If you think this tradition is long gone, you're wrong. Although it isn't nearly as common or popular, artists still work with hair as one of the many types of media from the body to create some of the same kinds of things that the Victorian's did.
One example of an artist at work is Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich. She took the classic idea of a wreath made of hair, which was common back in hair art's glory days, and added her own twist by giving it eyes that stare right back at you. Fitting for a piece of work that can mesmerize as much as repulse.
© 2011 LisaKoski