Hairy Art: Artists Who Use Hair as Their Medium

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You may think it’s just there to keep your head warm – or to keep you from looking like an alien – but the truth is, hair has a variety of conflicting connotations with a distinct bearing on our lives. A shiny, full head of hair is a sign of health and attractiveness, or even a symbol of virility, but hair disconnected from the head (ie in your soup, in the shower drain, etc) is usually seen as dirty or disgusting, even though it’s not any more or less dead than it was when someone was wearing it. There have been many religious and social practices to do with the way hair is styled, indicating adherence to a set of beliefs or loyalty to a certain group, whether it be flappers chopping their hair off to protest the traditional role of women, to Hasidic Jews growing out their side curls, to punks rocking mohawks. It makes sense then that something so ubiquitous and yet with such possibility for controversy be integrated into the art world, where artists can both rebel against and embrace the implications. Click through to see our gallery of follicle art, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Bill Fink creates ‘Time and Matter’ photographs of subjects completely from their own hair. He writes, “if the actual matter from the subject being photographed is used to create the picture, it extends photography to a new dimension.” He also does hair portraits of trees and flowers though, so he may be fudging the point a bit. Either way, it’s certainly pretty amazing.

Wenda Gu, a Chinese-born conceptual artist, has been working primarily with hair for many years. According to the New York Times, in 2007, in conjunction with the school’s Hood Museum of Art, Gu offered free haircuts to faculty, staff and students at Dartmouth University, collected the resultant 430 pounds of hair and turned it into two installation pieces in the school. Talk about school spirit.

Adam Parker Smith‘s irreverent solo exhibition, entitled Crush, is currently up at Evergold Gallery in San Francisco. Though this piece was created with synthetic hair, we think it still achieves the creepiness of actual hair without losing any of its intrinsic mirth and wit.

Japanese artist Nagi Noda is perhaps best known for her wonderful animalistic ‘hair hats’ (and her directorial work on music videos for Cut Copy and Scissor Sisters), but we like her other, more frightening work as well.

66 year old Chengdu artist Zhang DeXuan creates tiny portraits by weaving together strands of human hair, via a family technique that has been handed down through generations. According to Shanghaiist, “he first makes an enlarged blueprint (up to a 100 times larger) and then spends a minimum of two months weaving each strand in. The work requires so much patience and attention to detail, Zhang has had to learn to control his breathing so that he doesn’t break any of the hair. Although most of his portraits only contain a few hundred strands, he is very picky about which hair he uses–out of 10,000 strands, he may choose only to use one hair.” Though none of his children have learned the art, Zhang has 20 apprentices, so the art will live on.

This installation at the Hong Kong Museum of Art by artist Leung Mee-ping features shoes woven from the hair of people from all around the world.

Seattle-based artist Adrienne Antonson makes these ethereal insects – as well as other small sculptures – out of human hair and glue. They seem at once decimated and tragic and totally magical.

Rosemary Meza uses her own hair in place of a pen for her strange line drawings, experimenting with material as line and using the medium to express her interests in gender issues.