HAIR is both deeply personal and our most immediate means of expressing our identity. On our heads the hairstyles we choose are shaped as much by our society as our hairdressers - our cuts and colourings aligning us to our our own cultural tribes. Drastic changes in hair come at points of personal transition and public statement - puberty, leaving home, coming out, breaking up while day-to-day the way we wear our hair reflects everything from our mood to who we expect to see.
Hair is political - in 1968, during American civil rights movement, Black Panther activist Kathleen Cleaver talked about the importance of celebrating 'natural, black hair' in a push back against the biases of a white, Euro-centric beauty ideal. Body hair remains symbolic of societies control of our own bodily autonomy - the pressure on women in particular to shave and trim in line with a sexualised social ideal is deeply ingrained in the rituals that parents pass on to teenage children and peers pass on to one another, fuelled by airbrushed media imagery.
Life drawing is an ideal platform to see the de-sexulised human figure in all its variety - it can also be an ideal performative space for life models and artists to explore the imagery of hair and their personal relationship to it. It is in the life drawing studio that you see the great range and variety of body hair - naturally long or short, dark or light and cut, shaved or allowed to grow in every combination. We are used to looking at hair in a life class and making sense of its texture, colour and styling but this term we invite you to THINK about the hair you are drawing, to consider your relationship to your own hair and how that might play out in your work. Until early March we'll be sharing articles about hair, running hair-focused tutored classes and exploring hair-themes through several special sessions run by our very own (Floorlength) Frankie - check out the events below and keep your eyes peeled for our social media posts.
Image: Etching by Mary Martin