Editor’s Letter: Introducing (De)Tangled

Our Executive Director and Founding Editor, Cameron Shaw, fills you in on what’s to come with “(De)Tangled: A Living Salon.”

Nakeya Brown, A Plate of "Good" Hair from the series The Refutation of "Good" Hair, 2012. Inkjet Print. Courtesy the artist.

At Pelican Bomb, we’ve learned that trying new things is more fun than sticking with the same, and the ideas you fall in love with can take years to develop. Two years ago, I was emailing with a then little-known photographer, Nakeya Brown, when she showed me her newest series, The Refutation of “Good” Hair. I still have the one-line message I immediately sent to my co-director Amanda Brinkman: “If we get a space, I want to show this work!” We never did get that space; instead Amanda and I designed Pelican Bomb’s Roving Exhibitions program. If you’ve visited our last two shows, you know we’ve been hosting our pop-up exhibitions in unused, pretty raw spaces. It’s been a ton of work, clearing out abandoned furniture, building walls, rigging electrical, and putting on the kind of idea-driven shows and public programming that we wanted to see in our city. So when the UNO St. Claude Gallery approached us three months ago with an opening in their exhibition calendar, we decided to take on a different challenge. For the first time, we’re turning over the Art Review, Community Supported Art, and Roving Exhibitions to a single theme—hair.

We’ve rounded up Nakeya (who’s now huge, by the way) and a host of collaborators, both old and new, to bring their diverse perspectives on the politics of beauty and hair—how it has shaped their own identities and how they see the world. Each week through June 7, our Art Review will be rolling out digital artist projects, essays, and interviews tackling a range of topics from conceptions of “good” and “bad” hair, hair and the sexualized body, fantasy hair and the performance of gender, the future of hair, and more.

And because we believe art can offer entry points to deeply personal, complicated, and often contested areas of dialogue in everyday life, we wanted to use our stint at the UNO St. Claude Gallery to invite the people of New Orleans to see themselves as works of art. Today through June 7, we’re staging a communal performance we’re calling the 2015 New Orleans Hair Archive. If you’re in the city, come by any Saturday or Sunday, 12-5 pm, and we’ll take your photo and an artist will draw your hairstyle live. You’ll name your mane and add your portrait to the wall where you think it belongs amongst the many styles of New Orleans, as part of our evolving, living “salon.” And if you can’t make it, don’t worry, we’ll be digitizing the archive to share online. We may even be bringing the Hair Archive to your city soon.