Date of Award

12-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Art

Committee Member

Valerie Zimany, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Andrea Feeser

Committee Member

Dave Detrich

Abstract

My work investigates the significant role and relationship that hair plays in African-American culture. Throughout history, African-Americans have used the styling of hair as a way of passing down tradition and expressing their individuality, cultural and political beliefs. Since the late 1970’s there has been a constant struggle for African-Americans to wear their hair naturally without backlash from society. In my work, I use culturally based objects such as hair combs, afro picks, head wraps and other accessories to symbolize black pride. I use this framework to generate abstracted ceramic vessels and sculptures. The content of my work becomes amplified by the use of medium, large and life-sized scale to emphasize the importance of black identity and the challenges African-Americans face in society. The sculptures are anthropomorphized in form, which implies a sense of movement and freedom of defining space. Pinching techniques are used in both vessels and sculptures to create a rhythm and pattern which parallels the styling hair. The drawings of men and women on the vessels and sculptures display a range of styles, and history of hairstyles, that embody distinct personalities to express specific identities and struggles. My work draws on elements of popular culture, West African art, traditional pottery, and documentation of traditions passed from one generation to another. There is a great importance and symbolization of what hair represents culturally and individually to African-Americans in my work. Hair care is a method to express identity, culture and self-love. Through my perspective and experience, I have made work that sheds light on hair being essential to African-American growth, identity and way of life.

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