Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Well, we moved to Fort Greene recently and I am just now turning my thoughts back to my artwork...our space is much smaller so I will have to work on the kitchen table. There is something great about that--except that I have to clean up after myself every time!! I found out that some of my hair drawings will be in a group show next January. It is older work, but I think it will look wonderful with the work of the other artists in the show. Here is the link...scroll down to "Opening Lines."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

New Piece for April

This piece is based on a detail from Goya's etching entitled: "Y No Hai Remedio" or "And it Can't be Helped."

Enlarging the image and working on a smaller detail seems to provide a much more powerful image. I am working now on isolating individual figures and reorganizing them on the ground to create even more tension.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Good News

Yay! My piece from the Shadow Show at Real Art Ways (see January 2008 postings) is printed in the January/February issue of FiberArts magazine. (It is only in the print version, not online). It is my first magazine exposure!

Slow and steady wins the race...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some progress

I am forcing myself to move a bit faster on this, and it seems to be going well. After seeing some of the online images of the incredible Chinese hairwork, I am getting some ideas about how to use crosshatching as a way of showing value--it is far more effective than parallel stiches, which is what I am doing. However, I am trying to follow Goya's markmaking as much as possible, and he pretty much uses only parallel lines. Perhaps I will vary it when I try working from photographs. That will be a challenge! My drawing chops are a little rusty...

This shows the original Goya etching to the right:

And the spindle with the hair "thread" which is knotted end to end:

Friday, January 18, 2008

How it All Started

Many people want to know why I started to make this work and where I got the idea from. I am not the first person to sew with hair (see links on the lower right); people were using human and animal hair to sew with thousands of years ago--it is surprisingly strong (and abundant!). Chinese women during the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) embroidered images of the Buddha with their hair to show their piety. It is still a popular art form in some parts of China today. (Check out Professor Wei Jingxian--he has done the portraits of all 43 American presidents in hair!!! WOW.)

The best known hairwork in Europe and America, however, was the mourning jewelry and pictures which gained in popularity during Georgian and Victorian times (Queen Victoria of England made mourning jewelry extremely popular). Saving the hair of dead or departed loved ones and wearing it on the body was an incredibly intimate way to remember loved ones. Many of the women who were skilled in this specialized art came from a small town in Sweden called VĂ¥
mhus, and they traveled all over Europe to take orders and sell their work to combat the extreme poverty that they were experiencing in the late 18th to early 19th centuries (more here). Hairwork made by the Swedish women and others was called "tablework;" the hair was plaited using a special table with a hole in the center and bobbins to weigh down the strands of hair (similar to bobbin lace and Japanese Kumihimo). The results were gorgeous bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches, and wreaths.

I started working with hair in 1998 when I had a bad bout of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME for you readers in the UK). I was enrolled in the sculpture program at the Massachusetts College of Art, but I just didn't have the energy to go to the studio most of the time. In my "collection of interesting things," I had a ponytail of hair that my mother had saved from a haircut. I discovered that I could easily knot the ends together to make a long "thread," which I collected on a spool. My mother taught me to sew when I was little, so it was a logical next step to try to sew with it. I drew some simple forms onto heavy paper and then pierced hundreds of holes for the needle to go through. The drawings became more and more complex over the years; the three-dimensional forms that were represented by many of the drawings were, in my mind, containers for memory: rooms, houses, fortresses.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Disasters of War", 2007-

After a hiatus, (exploring sculpture in graduate school) I am finally working again in the medium that I love best: hair embroidery. I am in the process of rethinking the format that I used from the 1998 to 2005, however. The abstract, schematic works seem too cool and analytical for me now, and I want to find a more direct and personal way of processing the travesty that is the war in Iraq. Looking at Goya's depictions of the horrors of the Peninsular War in the early 19th century alongside the graphic photos of the carnage in Iraq on the internet, I see uncanny parallels. I have started to make my own "mourning pictures" by sewing the hair into drawings based on Goya's etchings. I chose fragments of antique linen tablecloths as a support, which contrast the rather gritty images which I embroider on them, at the same time as they echo the genteel Victorian era in which hairwork was so popular .

The sewing of the hair is extremely slow and painstaking; I have to find a way to speed things up. I am posting my progress as a way of spurring myself on to work a bit faster!
J+R (brunette), 2005, 22" x 28", human hair sewn into canvas

This piece is currently on view at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT as part of "The Shadow Show" (curated by Elizabeth Keithline and Kristina Newman-Scott). The closing reception is on February 2nd, 2008, from 2-4 PM.

Selected Earlier Works

Installation Shot from "Less" (2000) at Green Street Gallery (an amazing gallery that had its last show in 2006) Boston, MA, curated by the tireless James Hull. See also: http://www.greenstreetgallery.org/jenn.html

Lookout, 2001, 19" x 22", human hair sewn into paper

Lookout, 2001, 19" x 22", human hair sewn into paper

Container, detail, 2000, 22" x 30", human hair sewn into paper

Container, 2000, 22" x 30", human hair sewn into paper

Barrack #2, detail, 2000, 15" x 15", human hair sewn into paper

Barrack #2, 2000, 15" x 15", human hair sewn into paper

Barrack #1, detail, 2000, 15" x 15", human hair sewn into paper

Barrack #1, 2000, 15" x 15", human hair sewn into paper

Untitled, 2000, 13"x 13", human hair sewn into paper

Untitled, 2000, 12"x 12", human hair sewn into paper

Compound,detail, 1999, 22"x 30", human hair sewn into paper

Compound, 1999, 22"x 30", human hair sewn into paper

Artist Statement
In the fall of 2000 I traveled to the Island of Jersey in the English Channel where hundreds of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall bunkers stud the coastline. Some of them looked as if they had been built thousands of years ago, with their stepped “porches” and tomblike portals, and others were eerily futuristic. These beautiful and terrible fortresses became metaphors for personal and artistic issues that I was dealing with at the time: safety, fear, vulnerability, hatred, cruelty.

I reference the bunker forms by making schematic drawings on paper, and I then pierce the surface with a needle hundreds of times along the pencil lines. I knot individual strands of hair end to end and sew them into the paper or canvas. The hair creates bisecting planes that overlap and build up to create a schematic “drawing” which floats in a horizonless space. I am interested in representing closed, illusionistic rooms or spaces that hold memory. The fragility and visceral quality of the hair softens and humanizes the precise perspectival drawings of these imaginary fortresses, as it creates a play on scale and density.