Exhibition | Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hair Work

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 24, 2018

The exhibition, now on view at The Mütter Museum, presents mainly nineteenth-century objects, though there are several striking eighteenth-century works, too; it’s a fascinating exploration of palette, table work, dissolving hair, and gimp techniques.

Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hair Work
The Mütter Museum, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 January — 16 September 2018

Curated by Emily Snedden Yates, John Whitenight, and Evan Michelson

A favored folk art of the 18th and 19th centuries, hair art was a sentimental expression of grief and love, usually created by women whose identities have become anonymous over time. Human hair—from both living and deceased persons—was used to form flower bouquets, wreaths, braided jewelry chains, weeping willows, and painted scenes of mourning. Considered to be a form of portraiture, these were cherished tokens to preserve the memory of a deceased loved one, chart a vibrant family tree of the living, or to be traded as friendship keepsakes. It is rare to view such pieces publicly as they were created in domestic settings, for home display. Drawing from six private collections, the Mutter Museum together with John Whitenight and Evan Michelson has assembled an exquisite group of hair art and jewelry as well as accompanying materials that discuss the social expectations of Victorian-era mourning rituals that ruled 19th-century society with strict standards.

A Brief History of Hair Art as Seen in Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hair Work at the Mütter Museum (Philadelphia: Mütter Museum, 2018), 80 pages, $17.

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