A woman’s most complicated relationship is not with her man, it’s with her hair.
Photographer and new art faculty member Rebecca Drolen’s exhibit, “Hair Pieces,” tests the boundaries between hair women like versus the hair they don’t.
“I think a lot of these images I specifically try to question that line between what’s beautiful and what’s disgusting about hair,” Drolen said.
“Hair Pieces” will remain on view through Nov. 1 in the Leu Center for Visual Arts’ Gallery 121. An artist reception will be held Oct. 17 from 5-7 p.m., and a gallery talk with Drolen will begin at 5:30.
In the exhibition, Drolen taps into historical theories about hair.
“The more you look into it like culturally and even throughout history what hair has meant to people as like symbols of sexuality or beauty,” Drolen said.
And while “Hair Pieces” showcases Drolen’s photography, it also features mixed-media objects like “Chest Hair,” a blond hair-piece necklace, and “Extra Volume,” one of several lockets in the exhibit that fuses photography and hair as a nod to 19th century art.
“In the late 1800s, sort of Victorian era, there were jewelry pieces that were used like mourning pieces,” Drolen said. “I was interested in that as a part of my research. To our modern ears, it sounds really disgusting to wear the hair of someone you love around your neck, so these are really meant to poke fun at that.”
She also relates this idea to what it would be like if we mourned the loss of the hair we tweeze and work to get rid of.
“It’s something that we really shouldn’t care about. What if we held it close and had affection for it?” Drolen said. “So they’re meant to be romantic but also laughable.”
With her art, Drolen attempts to transform generally unpleasant locations for hair and turn it into something beautiful.
In “Drainage,” long, luscious locks that culminate in curls flow out of a bathtub and onto the floor.
“Probably the grossest hair I can think of is what I pull out of the drain, but if we make it long and flowy, we’ll like it,” Drolen said.
Drolen’s work aims to speak on the constant struggle women have with their hair.
“That difference of hair that we love versus hair that we hate is really interesting,” she said. “We spend tons of money getting dyed hair or cutting the hair … and then there’s certain hair that we just, like everyone together pretends it’s not there. We remove and we get rid of.”
“It’s kind of like a useless struggle, but we all participate in these kinds of things,” Drolen said.
The variety of hair depictions, ranging from styled to untamed tresses and from the beautiful to the ugly, creates an interesting experience for the viewer.
“Questioning the kind of fickle relationship that we have with hair, where we love some and hate others, but we’re all kind of mammals and plagued by it regardless,” Drolen said.