Artwork exhibition celebrates black hair and hairstyles

Hair styling has always been more than just care. Some are considering getting a new cut therapeutic. But if black salons and barber shops are also important social spaces, curator Tara Fay Coleman wants to emphasize that they are also places where art is made.

Roots Run Deep opens January 22nd at the Brew House Association Gallery, 711 S. 21st St., South Side

Coleman’s new exhibition “Roots Run Deep: A Contemporary Review of African American Hair Culture” celebrates the history and culture of black hair by showing the work of stylists alongside that of photographers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

The show opens on Friday at the Brew House Association Gallery on the south side. Coleman is enrolled on Prospectus, the association’s emerging curatorial program.

Coleman said one face of the exhibit looked at hair styling through a historical lens. Some braiding practices popular today actually date back centuries, she said.

“I love exploring that and how modern stylists act as artists, and [to] highlight the work they are doing and how it aligns with our history and lived experiences, ”she said.

Some of the artists on “Roots Run Deep” have national credits, including Los Angeles-based photographer Nakeya Brown, Sharon Norwood from Georgia, and Ayanna Nayo, a Los Angeles painter and sculptor.

Local stylists include Mia Marshall, who runs Luxurae Hair.

“What she does works as art, and I wanted to include stylists because black stylists in particular are artists. You create art every day, ”said Coleman.

She noted that the show has a political component that deals with the struggle for black hairstyle acceptance in the workplace. The Crown Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) was passed in local communities across the country, including Pittsburgh and Allegheny Counties late last year, to outlaw discrimination on that basis.

“Roots Run Deep” also features Afro-futuristic hairstyles, including a display of pigtails that is equipped with digital technology that responds to sound and touch.

“When you sing, one of the braids lights up and when you touch it I think it lights up too,” she said.

“Roots Run Deep” opens on Friday January 22nd and runs through March 6th. The gallery is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Entry is free, but on the opening weekend, visitors are asked to book timed entry to facilitate social distancing.

After the opening weekend, visitors can come to our gallery to get a ticket without a ticket or schedule a private appointment by emailing at least 48 hours in advance.

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