Styling Identities: Hair’s Tangled Histories

March 21–August 11, 2024

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Everyone has a hair story to tell.

Hair is an integral part of us. It is personal and intimate while also being one of the most visible ways we express our identity to the world. We use it to reinvent or disguise ourselves. We style our hair to make a statement: to follow trends and conform, or to forge our own path in defiance of social norms. But hair is more than symbolic—it is a tangible manifestation of our DNA, tying us to our ancestors. We keep hair as a token of love and remembrance, honoring a child’s first haircut or a loved one who has passed. Its significance on both a personal and societal level has made hair a powerful focus of art throughout human history.

We realize it’s impossible for one exhibition to fully tell the story of hair, but the Wadsworth Atheneum’s exhibition Styling Identities: Hair’s Tangled Histories aims to tell a story about what hair means to us—to our individual staff, to our museum, and to our Hartford communities. Organized by a team of curators passionate about hair, drawn from across levels and departments at the museum, this exhibition is about us as much as it is about hair. Hair is community. Hair is power. Hair is us.

Exhibition Zine

Zines, short for fanzine or magazine, are self-published booklets containing text and images focusing on a specific topic or interest. This zine about hair was created as an alternative to a traditional exhibition catalogue. It reflects the unique way this exhibition was planned by a wide range of staff in partnership with members of the community. It includes contributions from the Styling Identities curatorial team, other museum staff, and community members of all ages and backgrounds. Submissions include paintings, photography, collages, poems, and personal reflections. Printed copies are available in the Museum Shop.

Public Programs

March 24 | Member Morning
April 4 | First Thursdays: Barber Battle with Hartford’s iconic Harrison’s House of Styles
April 7 | Demonstration: Hair Braiding with Lorie Deka Wise 

April 11 | Lecture: Hair to There with Sonya Clark
Multidisciplinary artist and educator Sonya Clark (MATRIX 184) returns to the Wadsworth to discuss her career and her exploration of hair as a symbol and medium. 5pm gallery viewing, 6pm lecture; free with reservations encouraged via thewadsworth.org.

April 13 | Second Saturdays for Families: Hair Tales
April 13 | Demonstration: Hair Texture with Carmen Veal Conway
May 11 | Demonstration: Hair Cutting with Miguel DelValle 
June 1 | Artist Talk: The Dauntless Bureau with Rachel Portesi
June 2 | Demonstration: Turban Tying with Gurmeet Kaur Singh and Prabhjit Singh Mutneja
June 8 | Demonstration: The Art of Dreadlocks with Cedric “Dr. Loc” Roberson
June 30 | Demonstration: Wig Styling with Dalia Kulek 
July 11 | First Thursdays
July 12 | Artist Talk: Styling Identities with filmmaker Pedro Bermudez
July 13 | Demonstration: Hair Cutting with Harry Bates
August 4 | Artist Talk: Styling Identities with Hartford artists Andre Rochester and Ande’Ja Johnson
August 10 | Second Saturdays for Families: Community Connections
August 10 | Demonstration: Hair Jewelry with Zen Hansen
August 11 | Hair Jewelry Workshop with Zen Hansen

Film Series

April 4 | Hair (1979)
June 7 & 8 | Double Feature: Manscaping (2022) and Swan Song (2021)
July 20 | Panel and work-in-process screening of the forthcoming documentary Tribal Strands
August 1-4 | Beauty Academy of Kabul (2004)

Mobile Tour

The Styling Identities: Hair’s Tangled Histories mobile tour is accessible from any location on your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Tours

Docent-guided tours take place Thursdays–Sundays at 2pm. Capacity is limited and reservations are encouraged.


Styling Identities: Hair’s Tangled Histories was curated by a team of staff across departments at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, in partnership with a Community Advisory Board including Jasmin Agosto, Marian Andoh-Clarke, Harry Bates, Carmen Veal Conway, Miguel DelValle, Miriam Gopin, Christina Jackson, Dalia Kulek, Rabbi Yosef Kulek, Prabhjit Mutneja, Andre Rochester, Graciela Rivera, Husna Sayeed, Gurmeet Singh, and Karen Taylor. We also extend our deepest gratitude to Revisionist Films, Amaranta’s Hair Salon, Brown Skin Women Studio, INDAKUT Barbershop, and all the individuals who agreed to take part in our video projects, as well as everyone who shared their hair story through the Zine, a reflective label, or the mobile guide. This exhibition is better because of you.

This exhibition is sponsored by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Anonymous, The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation, the Henkel Corporation and Travelers.