During a residency at the Center for Photography in Woodstock, New York, the artist Endia Beal took a group of middle-aged white women to a black hair salon. There, they were given a hairstyle typically seen on black women. After being styled, the women were photographed in a traditional corporate portrait.
The idea for this project came to Beal when she was working in a computer lab at Yale. Sporting a large red afro herself, she heard that many men in the office wanted to touch her hair. Her art project originates from this experience and wants to open discussion about different race, gender and generations. Beal raises questions about how we see ourselves, especially in the corporate world, as the ideal corporate appearance remains, in most cases and even for white women, the white male with his power suits.
For this series, she specifically wanted to work with women at least in their 40s: “I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space,” she said. “ And to a degree, many young white women have shared that experience, but for older white women it’s an experience they haven’t necessarily had.” She added that the project is all about taking a risk, stepping out of your comfort zone, and trying out a new experience. Besides the physical opposition between a white woman and her black hair, the most compelling aspect of this work are all of the complicated histories, assumptions, silences and transformations that make the viewer see this issue as a discrepancy in the first place.

AnnAnn BethBeth CharlotteCharlotte ChristinaChristina ChristineChristine EllenEllen LynnLynn ©Endia Beal

Advertisements