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Never a Bad Hair Day
This body of work is a celebration of the Natural Hair Movement within the African American community. The Natural Hair Movement describes the time we are in where more women are encouraged to wear their naturally textured hair instead of permanently altering it by use of relaxing chemicals (invented by Garrett Morgan in 1909). Over time, the chemicals to straighten natural African American hair have caused baldness, blisters, and other damages to the person. With its tightly twisted kinks and curls, natural African American hair has often been stereotyped as bad or unprofessional in society and the media because it does not fit the standards of White American beauty. Within the article Why Don’t He Like My Hair: Constructing African Americans Standards of Beauty, Bertram D. Ashe (writer) commented on the relationships between African Americans and society by stating, “African Americans, with traditional African features, have always had an uneasy coexistence with the European (White) ideal of beauty.” These European (White) ideals of beauty included having light skin and long straight hair. These are features that the majority of the Black race does not have.
Today you can see a vast increase of women and men wearing afros, twist outs, and even dread locks in everyday life, the work place, and media. Rochelle Ritchie with Channel 5 news publicly cut out the chemically treated portion of her hair and wore her naturally textured hair. She described herself as, “happy and free.”
This series of paintings is celebrating natural African American hair in every possible way. I want natural black hair to be appreciated for its distinctiveness and beauty. Within these paintings, I have a variety of women and men displaying their different hairstyles, including the elaborate coiffures displayed by our ancestors. We are in a movement where more and more of society and the media are accepting that we are not all cut from the same cloth and we do not need to be. Kinky, curly, and nappy hair is God given and represents who we are and where we have come from.
Each piece is the image of someone I have encountered in my life who gracefully allowed me to paint them and their beautifully textured hair. When I hear the word innovation, I think of a new process or idea. For so many years, the media and society told us that beauty is one that has long straight hair. As a result, chemicals have been used to permanently change the texture of African American hair. The Natural Hair Movement consists of Black women and men who presented a new process or idea… Rock your natural hair and be yourself because you and your hair are not a mistake.
“I decided to go natural shortly after college. I had always alternated between braided styles and relaxers. Having experienced some hair breakage as a result of relaxing my hair I decided to give in to the natural route! So, after some contemplating, I went into my bathroom and BIG CHOPPED my hair! Lol That was 5 1/2 years ago! I have stayed natural since then honestly because I like and it work for me and feels right for me! Plus I really enjoy the freedom to change my hair anytime I want! I have gone through a series of styles which have included braised, crotchet weaves/braids, twist-out etc. Currently I have resulted to wear my hair in a short/tapered / faded style which I've been enjoying!” ~Lauren Mendes