WASHINGTON, DC—Artist Sonya Clark uses hair as a point of reference to raise issues of race, history and culture. While human hair is a common medium in her thought-provoking work, she often employs cloth fibers and thread to represent hair, too. Her “Black Hair Flag,” for example is a Confederate flag overlaid with the patterns of the American flag—the stripes are composed of braided black string and hair knots serve as the stars.
Some of Clark’s most innovative works are composed of hair combs. A layered floor installation called “iterations” is a masterfully constructed tree full of branches that reminds one of cultural roots and family heritage. The intricate design of “kente comb cloth” is similarly impressive.
Clark, who chairs the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, recently had a solo show at Contemporary Wing in Washington, D.C., and the gallery also showcased her work at Scope New York last weekend.
According to the gallery, Clark’s work, “a critique of ‘hair history,’ explores the contentious relationship African Americans have with hair by reinventing its use as a contemporary art form.”
“White Canvas,” 2012 (canvas).
“Cotton to Hair” (the linked image shows a work similar to the one in the show) was one of the more intriguing pieces in the exhibit. The mixed-media work was at once provocative and delicate—a puff of hair paired with a raw cotton boll that looked like it was freshly picked from the plantation.
“Ahead of Hair: A Solo Show of New Works by Sonya Clark” was on view at the Contemporary Wing from Feb. 1 to March 2, 2013.
All photos © Arts Observer
“Quadroon,” 2012 (thread, canvas).
From left, “Long Hair,” 2006 (digital print, wood), with Albers Studies at right.
From left, “Albers Study #2 (5 colors to 6)” and “Albers Study #1 (5 colors to 6),” both 2013 (thread and combs).
Foreground, “Cotton to Hair,” 2012 (bronze, human hair, cotton); Background, from left, “Twist,” 2005 (combs); “Basket Hair + There,” 2011 (human hair, wire); and “Hair Wreath,” 2012 (human hair, wire).