Proposal for Archive (with notes)

February 28, 2016


Mary Sibande Sophie Velucia’ and ‘Madame CJ Walker, 2009


I’m interested in creating an archive of hair- specifically my own, my mother’s, sister’s, grandmothers’, and so on, collecting hair from the women of my family as far back as could be theoretically or physically reached. Hair as a personal identification, physical identification (DNA), political or fashion statement, keepsake, and socio-economic indicator fascinates me. The way hair has been politicized for women of color in this country, for example, is indicative of more far-reaching & deeper racial tensions, racial injustices, and misogyny.

I think I’m drawn to the collection of my family members’ hair, particularly my mother’s, because of my current emotional state, new considerations of my childhood, and the closeness I feel to my mother now. Furthermore, women have assumed the crucial role of story-telling—sharing and documenting their own and their families’ histories in societies and cultures where the predominating voice was male. My initial conception of the use of this archive included the creation of objects out the collected hair: crosses (like those made on Palm Sunday in the Catholic church), dolls (such as cornhusk dolls), or jewelry (like those made in Victorian England). The object-making itself could become a performance, where it is not I alone who makes the objects but my mother, sister, aunts, cousins, grandmother and I who create things out of the collected hair. Moreover, a space could be formed for other women to use their family’s hair to make objects for display, keepsake or memorabilia, the photographs of which would constitute a new archive.

I don’t actually know if the realization of this archive is possible. Collecting hair can take a long time, and the categorization even longer. Also, I think the idea for the archive needs work. But, this exercise has opened my eyes to a medium I want to research further, to artists who are already using hair in their work, and what that could mean for my own exploration and understanding of feminist art.

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