Going to the hairdresser’s is never just as simple as getting your hair cut – you come to be styled as yourself – within the confines, of course, of the kind of ‘self’ the world allows you to be. Open Barbers is a social enterprise which offers a personalised haircutting experience with a queer and trans friendly attitude. Led by Greygory Vass and Felix Lane, Open Barbers aims to celebrate people’s appearance the way they want to be seen. The salon offers a sliding scale of payment, welcoming clients to pay what they can afford.
In this solo exhibition, Amy will be exhibiting a large selection of hair portraits – no face shape, no facial features, no model’s pose – these portraits trace the sitters’ hair only. Amy’s approach is to focus on the personal connection that goes into making an image, she sees this as a ‘conversation’ and asks the sitters to give their portraits a title. These drawings will be complied into a Look Book for
Open Barbers – a catalogue of hair style ideas that clients can choose from, without limiting associations of gender, age or attractiveness that hairdresser’s images normally impose. Her pictures point beyond the realm of appearance: they are the catalyst for a relationship, and a document of what takes place.
This approach is typical of Amy’s work, which encompasses installation, sculpture, performance and socially engaged practice but always begins, Amy says, with a pen in her hand. A former care-worker educated at the radical, free art academy of Islington Mill, Amy often works in social settings – such as care homes, parks and working men’s clubs. She creates close relationships with the people she works with, who are simultaneously co-collaborators, participants and audiences for her work.
In the context of Open Barbers, which is particularly concerned with gender identity, this intervention into the relationship between image and self represents the freedom Open Barbers’ clients exercise in the salon. “Having documentation of our haircuts is really useful and important to us,” Greygory and Felix say. But a traditional Look Book is filled with models conforming to narrow stereotypes of gender and beauty. This one celebrates the hair itself, with none of these limiting associations. . “We feel it’s important that clients feel in charge of their own image,” say Greygory and Felix, “and the way Amy approached the drawing process is another way of taking back the means of representation, out of the hands of society that tries to erase so many gender identities and presentations.”
The Look Book will be available to buy as a limited edition during the exhibition at Hotel Elephant.