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Andrea Ward: Hairstories
Andrea Wardís collection of hair stories (in effect, portraits that are not physical likenesses, á la Mary Kelly) delves into womenís obsessions with their hair. To create this pseudo-sociological survey the artist interviewed women in Toronto and Halifax. She typed up their statements and created hair-compositions with tokens given to her by the interview subjects. She then encased the assemblages in rich mahogany frames. The presentation gives a clean, museum-like appearance. Precious, intimate experiences and locks of hair are preserved and displayed like specimens. One interviewee remembers:
When I got my first couple of pubic hairs I was terrified. I was an early bloomer and, along with the other changes in my body, it felt like the most horrible thing that could have happened to me. At first I plucked them out, but that was too painful, so I would sneak into my fatherís bathroom, lock the door and shave them off. Felt like I wasnít in control of my body. Born 1947
Ward takes pains to protect the anonymity and respect the individuality of the 42 women she interviewed. She gives us the opportunity to analyse and ponder how we fixate and fetishize over our hair, and to what purpose. Clearly hair plays a defining role in womenís conceptions of themselves. Would that be considered empowering or a typically irrational, feminine notion?
Hairstories was toured nationally in the early 1990s by Saint Maryís University Art Gallery. The artist, a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, currently lives in Toronto.
From too small too big by I. Jenkner