Embrace Your Inhairitance

“Of the Past out Future Speaks” “Once Borrowed Now Lost” “The Unsinkable Sell Out” triptych from the ‘Gaian Follicles Series.’ Hair Artwork by ©Asher Jay 2012 www.asherjay.com

Art can encompass a diverse range of disciplines, and the products born of those specialties. The renaissance definition of the term did not differentiate between creative pursuits and the sciences, and it underscored the overlap between acquired skill and inherent talent. In the modern world however, our need to categorize has shadowed cultural evolution by imposing silos of growth upon creativity, preventing individuals from adopting organic interdisciplinary learning curves, ultimately causing us to lose sight of interdependent relationships. Several academic institutions are now recognizing how limited this advocated path of linear progression is, and have addressed it by offering integrated design/science/business curricula. Scientists are now collaborating with artists to push the boundaries and the very semantics of ‘art’ is evolving to be intrinsically more inclusive and receptive to cross pollination.

“Sirens of the Sea” Save the Seas Hair Artwork by ©Asher Jay 2012 www.asherjay.com

As a mixed media artist who draws inspiration from every sensory stimulus this world has to offer, I often incorporate themes of nature within fashion narratives in my artwork using found objects and magazine rips from piles of Daily discards at the Fashion Week tents in New York. The two pieces included in this article utilize the dynamic fluidity of hair to evoke a narrative about entanglement and interconnectivity. Ever since I saw Rapunzel repurpose her golden tresses into a climbing rope I have been fascinated by this filamentous biomaterial’s capacity for sculptural metamorphosis, and Nagi Noda’s exquisite hair hats best exemplify this potential.

Over the years several couture houses have managed to channel hair into their visual dialogue to advance the core narrative of their respective collections. This breed of avante-garde-textile evangelists have been able to take human hair to new sartorial heights, weaving, knitting, crocheting and knotting the filaments with a certain eccentricity and prowess that we have all come to expect from conceptual yet competent au courant designers. From Martin Margiela, to McQueen, there isn’t a house hold name in fashion that has not at some point employed this raw material in either its synthetic or natural form.

Maison Martin Margiela, Looks from SS09

McQueen Synthetic Hair Coat from the Savage Beauty exhibit at the MET.

LaVer Couture Hair Dress, worn by Lady Gaga.

From serving as an indicator of social status and sickness to facilitating religious rituals and artistic expression, both the absence and presence of hair invariably unfolds a story. It is the one physical attribute that can be manipulated effortlessly to contour an identity. For instance, I feel incredibly burdened when I grow my hair out, and immensely exonerated when I pull a Joan of Arc on its length. It is almost as though the metric measure of each strand increases the overall gravitational force exerted on my frame. Yes, it is an irrational lead boot sensation I endure when I allow my mane to take my scalp and soul hostage, but fortunately there is a cure available, a custom salon snip session! I was more than ecstatic to downsize my curls for a Salon 718 style shoot at Good Light Works last month, last year I lopped it all off for the hair/fur/fleece collection drives organized by Matter of Trust for home spun booms, a spill response initiative…really I am just looking for a reason to cut it short! (*Of course BP never did use the hair, fleece and fur to address the “leak”, which incidentally is still oozing out into the now toxic waters of the Gulf.)

Michealla Blisset Williams, the owner of Salon 718, was gracious enough to furnish me with an interview, to shed light on this sinuous staple, a malleable medium I have not had the opportunity to play with on account of being a coiffure reductionist at heart.

Asher Jay: Did you choose your profession or did your profession choose you?
Michealla Blissett-Williams: I chose my profession. I have always loved hair and fashion. Even when I was a little girl I was intrigued by it, and I always followed my mother to her Saturday ritual of getting her hair done. I was in awe, seeing the women come into the salon looking one way, and leaving looking a completely different way. It was amazing to watch the tranformative power of styling.

AJ: The creative and conceptual skill set required by any profession involving aesthetics is considerable, and when it comes to styling the sensibility of an individual the pressure is tenfold, as you offer product as a service. What is your process when envisioning a hair style for a specific customer?
MBW: I always look at the hair texture, facial bone structure and the neck. I always like to follow the texture’s natural inclination, shifting weight around the face structure to create the perfect shape, and exposing the neck to show the beauty of the nape.

AJ: Would you agree that hair styling is akin to sculpting?
MBW: Absolutely. As a sculptor molds clay, or metal, I shape hair. The texture determines how I approach my work.

AJ: Where is your Salon situated and how did you decide on its name?
MBW: Salon 718 is located in downtown Brooklyn. There has been such an influx of artists and creative people in Brooklyn that I felt it would inspire me unconditionally to bathe myself in the borough’s creative juices. I wanted to include the cool factor of the 718 area code which is closely aligned to Brooklyn more than any other borough as a defining characteristic of my salon.

AJ: Do you find many born-again-New-Yorkers are willing to step out of Manhattan for their style needs?
MBW: We are so close being 1 or 2 stops from Manhattan that coming to Brooklyn should never feel like you are going to another country. Beauty and style have a new address – 80 Dekalb.

AJ: What makes your work unique? Do you have a signature cut that you brand your consumers with?
MBW: My hair cuts are unique because I take people’s lifestyle into consideration.

AJ: Do you think fashion week influences your clientele? Are you personally influenced by the trend forecasts of each season?
MBW: I use it as a guide to commercialize the looks so that it’s adaptable to the clients.

AJ: Did you have a certain woman in mind when you began your career as a hair stylist, and has that woman changed in the years you have been snipping and styling? Who is your target customer?
MBW: I don’t have a woman in mind, I believe my competence rests on being able to furnish any woman with the exact sensibility that best suits her personality, facial features and lifestyle. My ideal customer is someone who truly trusts my expertise to create a look that I find most becoming on her.

What is the best before and after transformation you have ever participated in?
MBW: The best for 2012, was you!

What hair type proves the most challenging for you? What’s easiest to work with? Do you gravitate toward certain hair types?
MBW: Each hair texture and type has their own challenges and advantages. What’s great about hair is that it’s not one size fits all.

Any parting hair advice to aspiring stylists and potential customers?
MBW: When starting off, try and learn as much as you can and enjoy the journey. Surround yourself with people who believe in your dream.

AJ: If you had no financial or consumer restrictions what would you most enjoy creating with hair?
MBW: I would love to take a sabbatical for a year and really soak in some inspiration from non-fashion centric countries.

Credits for the images provided by Salon 718:
Photographer: Dar Riser
Models: Julia, Taj, Melissa, Asher (me)
Hair Stylists: Sunshine and Michaella Blisset-Williams
Fashion Stylist: Susann Davis
Make up: Tracy Moldwin

Other related articles/links:

From Food to Fashion the Thriving Market for Human Hair.
Jewellery Made From Human Hair
Good Hair Documentary Film produced by Chris Rock Productions and HBO Films

The latest news in contemporary and modern art in New York, London, Paris and Berlin

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