Saturday, March 20, 2021



The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

The Hair Craft Project, Artist Sonya Clark

In the Collection of The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Purchase a Hair Craft Project Catalog Here!

Hairdressers are my heroes. The poetry and politics of Black hair care specialists are central to my work as an artist and educator. Rooted in a rich legacy, their hands embody an ability to map a head with a comb and manipulate the fiber we grow into complex form. These artists have mastered a craft impossible for me to take for granted.

Almost two decades ago, in a review of my work, Bill Gaskins wrote, “Hairdressing is the primordial fiber art.” I began the Hair Craft Project with his words in mind.
The project bridges boundaries between hair salons and art galleries as sites of aesthetics, craft, skill, improvisation, and commerce. Hairdressers were each supplied with my full head of hair and a canvas hand stitched with silk thread. Their challenge was to demonstrate their expertise in a familiar medium, hair, and translate it into a less familiar one, thread on canvas. For the yearlong span of the project, I became a walking gallery. The photographs document the temporary hairstyles created specifically for the project while the canvases provide a permanent example of the craft.

Featured stylists: Kamala Bhagat, Dionne James Eggleston, Marsha Johnson, Chaunda King, Anita Hill Moses, Nasirah Muhammad, Jameika and Jasmine Pollard, Ingrid Riley, Ife Robinson, Natasha Superville, and Jamilah Williams.

Sonya Clark

More work by Sonya Clark:

Sonya Clark

Sonya Clark

PHOTOS: (1) Walla Walla woman, Estelle Steel-ye, about 1880. Smithsonian Institution. (2) Painting of famous frontier artist and chronicler of Native American culture, George Catlin. Head Chief White Cloud, Iowa tribe. About 1844. (The painted black hand indicated the chief's prowess in hand-to-hand combat.) (3) Cree Chief Pitkwahanapiwivin with dread locked hair. 1885. (4) Kootenai tribe member with roached hair adorned with feathers (or porcupine quills) and braids. 1920s. (5) Hopi maiden with "squash blossom whorls" (6) Manataka-style hair worn by famous Native actor, Wes Studi, in 1992 movie, "Last of the Mohicans" (7) George Catlin painting of Head Chief Buffalo Bull Back Fat, Blood tribe. 1832, (8) Flathead boy, Two Feathers. Montana, 1915. (9) Inuit woman, Nowadiuk, 1903. (10) Seminole woman with "board hair" (11) George Catlin illustration of Boy Chief of the Ojibwe. About 1834. (12) Cree warrior with "roached" hair spiked with bear grease and pigments from natural materials.

A sestina for a black girl who does not know how to braid hair

Your hands have no more worth than tree stumps at harvest.
Don’t sit on my porch while I make myself useful.
Braid secrets in scalps on summer days for my sisters.
Secure every strand of gossip with tight rubber bands of value.
What possessed you to ever grow your nails so long?
How can you have history without braids?

A black girl is happiest when rooted to the scalp are braids.
She dances with them whipping down her back like corn in winds of harvest.
Braiding forces our reunions to be like the shifts your mothers work, long.
I find that being surrounded by only your own is more useful.
Gives our mixed blood more value.
Solidifies your place with your race, with your sisters.

Your block is a layered cake of your sisters.
Force your lips quiet and sweet and they’ll speak when they need to practice braids.
Your hair length is the only part of you that holds value.
The tallest crop is worshipped at harvest.
So many little hands in your head. You are finally useful.
Your hair is yours, your hair is theirs, your hair is, for a black girl, long.

Tender-headed ass won’t last ’round here long.
Cut your nails and use your fists to protect yourself against your sisters.
Somehow mold those hands useful.
You hair won’t get pulled in fights if they are in braids.
Beat out the weak parts of the crops during harvest.
When they are limp and without soul they have value.

If you won’t braid or defend yourself what is your value?
Sitting on the porch until dark sweeps in needing to be invited, you’ll be needing long.
When the crop is already used what is its worth after harvest?
You’ll learn that you can’t ever trust those quick to call themselves your sisters.
They yearn for the gold that is your braids.
You hold on your shoulders a coveted item that is useful.

Your presence will someday become useful.
One day the rest of your body will stagger under the weight of its value.
Until then, sit in silence in the front with your scalp on fire from the braids.
I promise you won’t need anyone too long.
One day you will love yourself on your own, without the validation of sisters.
No longer a stump wailing for affection at harvest.

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Semiotics is the study of signs and their meaning in society. A sign is something which can stand for something else – in other words, a sign is anything that can convey meaning. So words can be signs, drawings can be signs, photographs can be signs, even street signs can be signs.

A close visual relationship to the thing they represent. 
Keeps characteristics.
Pictorial demonstrations of the information needed to be delivered. 
Example - An icon of women might be photograph of actual woman. 

Indicate something. 
Has some relationship to the thing it represents - is one step removed. 
Connected with its meaning, not arbitrary.
Compare to icon - it is not the object itself.
Implies another object or event. 
Give information which relates to a particular action. 
Example - Illustration of a woman on a restroom door. 

No resemblance to the thing it represents. 
Can only mean something if person knows (culture or previous knowledge).
A learned sign. 
Example - The circle/cross shape that signifies the female gender. 


Use cell phone to find icons, indexes and symbols.
Create indexes.
Make our own symbols.

Analyzing subject matter in an artwork, specifically symbols whose meaning is understood by a people or culture in that specific time period. 

Great Art Explained in Fifteen Minutes

The Brilliance and Symbolism of Basquiat's Flesh and Spirit
Three Minutes

Explaining the Explosion of Iconography in Basquiat's "Pyro"
Eleven Minutes