Dark and Lovely, 2014
“If we could watch in secret the rape of each lock, we should be able to give a series of pictures of human agony such as life but rarely presents, for we may be sure that, as a rule, a young woman almost as soon lose her life as that glorious appendage, on which so much of her beauty depends.”
- Andrew Wynter, “False Hair: Where it Comes From”, Our Social Bees, London, 1866
Hairs are tiny threads that link us to our past and present stories. These delicate strands have the power to identify us to the world, and this world can make assumptions about us based on its shape, color, and condition. Hair is contradictory; it is desirable or disgusting, pure or processed, innocent or sinful, an afterthought or a crowning glory. It is an extension of the body that grows in the womb before birth, and in the coffin after death, and the rate or length of growth is beyond our control. In Dark and Lovely, my focus is the emotive power of domestic objects and rituals that fix, organize, soothe, and beautify our hair – our lives.
My work has always dealt with identity, with the sense of being in-between, an imposter, neither fully Chinese nor Caucasian. I have learned to live with the constant question about my appearance: “What are you?” I change my response depending on my hair, make-up, clothes, what I am doing, where I am at, or what I am eating – who I am at the moment. I find people are rarely satisfied with my answer. I explore this conflict through my chosen media – porcelain, which nods to my Chinese heritage but also represents “pure” white – the white desire I find in both cultures. Bound by these conditions, I stitch together my individual nature, unravel the pressures of conformity, and forever experience pain in search of perfection.
"He loves me, he loves me not" was a game I played as a little girl. I would pluck flowers bare of its beautiful petals in hopes the last one spoken determined my hearts desired intentions. As an adult, I have allowed not only men to define my identity but that of my mixed race ethnicity and navigating the world as an 'other'. In this performance piece, I pluck my eyebrows bare until my identity becomes almost erased.