Hair Raising

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Untitled, Hair Ladder, 2005 Hair, Glue, Wood 2.5 Feet X 48 Feet © wrenay gomez charlton
Hair Raising
Curated by: Cathy Kimball

560 South First Street
95113 San Jose

January 20th, 2006 - March 11th, 2006

Peninsula/South Bay
Tue-Fri 10-5; Sat-Sun 12-5; Closed Mon
mixed-media, photography, digital, installation, video-art, conceptual, surrealism, figurative, modern, sculpture


The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art ( ICA) is proud to present Hair Raising, an exhibition featuring art made of and about human hair. Artists in this exhibition include Renee Billingslea, Rosana Castrillo Diaz, Wrenay Gomez Charlton, Diane Jacobs, Charles Linder, Victoria May, Paula Santiago, John Slepian, Valeska Soares, Lava Thomas, Lucrecia Troncoso and Kerry Vander Meer.

If you Google “hair,” you come up with 38,300,000 entries, all but a fraction of which promote the multi-million dollar hair care industry. As a society we are obsessed with hair – cutting it, growing it, perming it, coloring it, moussing, shaving, curling and straightening it. Many of our ideas about nature and beauty, gender and sexuality, individuality and conformity converge with symbolic significance around society’s attitudes towards hair.

During the past decade, there has been a growing fascination among contemporary artists with all manner of bodily experiences. Increasingly, the body has been used not only as the subject in artwork, but as the medium as well. Menstrual blood, nail clippings and skin have all been used to create works that examine the human body in every possible way. And hair is no exception.

The tradition of using hair in art was prevalent during the Victorian era. The hair of the deceased was often clipped off at the funeral parlor and incorporated into mourning jewelry: necklaces, bracelets and rings. Besides jewelry, mourners would often weave decorative and complex wall hangings that were used as memorials. This sentimental romanticizing of hair fell out of fashion in the early 1900s.

The artists in Hair Raising use hair in a variety of ways to symbolize and explore issues of mortality, fetishism, social heterogeneity and social differences. Others are concerned specifically with hair’s physicality and materiality. Many of them incorporate it directly into their art and others depict hair through drawings and photographs. This exhibition opens with a reception at 6:00 pm on January 20, 2006 and runs through March 11, 2006.

Join several of the participating artists on February 16th, at 7:00 pm in a discussion about their work in the exhibition and why they choose hair as a subject or medium.

Image: Lava Thomas, Pink, 2005, digital pigmented print, courtesy of the Artist and Nathan Larramendy Gallery