As kids, we three girls played with the laundry. A peculiar transformation took place when a towel strategically placed on our heads changed our neatly combed, barretted and twisted hair into long flowing locks that could be flipped over the shoulder with a flick of the hand or swung in the air as we turned our heads. In those moments we felt beautiful, free and at one with our reading of the girls in our neighborhood, the kids on television and in print, and all the options and variety those images provided. And when the towels were removed, wisps of free hair that escaped from the ball-barrettes of our formerly orderly twists would remind us of our reality – coarse, thick and unmoving (read non-conforming) hair that had to be “tamed.” Somehow, our reality didn’t coincide with our perception of ourselves.
At a young age we were sensitive to our physical differences from those of our neighborhood friends, and there was a disconnection between how we appeared on the outside and what we thought ourselves to be. Intuitively we came to realize by varied messages that we received, both subtle and direct, that our physical differences were not celebrated. Eventually, for each of us, a decision was made to come to terms with our physical selves. Various aspects affected the decisions - experiences, notions of self, culture, and biology – regarding our individual identities.
Imagery and text in the Body series relate to factors that shape identity and are introduced through painting, crochet, and sewing with hair politics as a recurring theme. Though an inert material, hair is both highly personal and highly subject to social and cultural codification. Just as our toweled hairdo’s offered a brief shift in our attitudes, the options of at least temporarily altering one’s physical characteristics can relay desired and undesired messages. As an object of the gaze, the political and social implications of hair color, texture and style are implicit. In other work, materials such as mud, leather and paper are used as a substitute for skin. Skin transcends what we can physically see on its surface; it is a link at the crossroads that it holds the mysteries of history brought forward and connects us to our ancestors and to a common denominator. In this series, references to the body function as a site of resistance aesthetically and culturally.