arwe art

RUBBER IDENTITY

Ongoing series started 2017

Our hair is deeply connected with our identity. For centuries, hair has had complicated connotations with our inner selves, politics, religion, and social liberation. So what happens to our notions of ‘self’ when hair is not a factor?

‘Rubber Identity’ is a series of portraits where the model’s hair is hidden by vintage rubber swimming caps. The models are unnervingly visibly uncomfortable with the caps, when they are no longer able to affect their own character with their hair.

While they are seated in classic portraiture postures, the models feel particularly vulnerable, exposed, and intimate. You get the sense that we are seeing them for exactly who they are. Perhaps even for the first time.

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Hair has been a powerful symbol for centuries. Not just a tool for changing fashions and styles, hair has long had connotations with politics, religion, and social liberation. For women, a change of hairstyle can indicate a willful change of identity, or it can be a marker of her emotional state. Unfussed with or covered hair is a sign of modesty, while elaborate updo’s are a sign of class, while short or shorn hair is often a political statement of rejecting her culture’s definition and oppression of femininity. For men, there is an anxiety over hair loss and fading color. Great steps may be taken to prevent or disguise them when they happen because they are not merely signs of aging but tied up in matters of status, capability, and prowess.

So what happens to our identity when hair is not a factor? “Rubber Identity” is a series of portraits where the figure’s hair is hidden by vintage rubber swimming caps, relics from an age where progress and social liberation clashed wildly with conformity, norms, and tradition. The models are unnervingly visibly uncomfortable with the caps, when they are no longer able to affect their own character with their hair. While they are seated in classic portraiture postures, these images feel particularly vulnerable, exposed, and intimate. You get the sense that we are seeing them for exactly who they are, for perhaps the first time, because what does “being yourself” even mean in today’s world filled with artifice and disguise? These portraits investigate what that may mean, how we define our identity, and who we become when those factors are taken away.

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