TEXTURES, ‘The Most Ambitious Exhibition,’ Explores Discrimination of Black Hair
Black lives and Black cultures have been underrepresented and discriminated against for many years. "TEXTURES: The History and Art of Black Hair" is an exhibition coming to the Kent State University Museum with significant sponsorship from corporate and federal funding that focuses on celebrating and empowering these lives and cultures.
The "TEXTURES" exhibition is a project dedicated to giving the Black community a voice. It is an interdisciplinary project that focuses on cultures from all over the world. Curators Tameka Ellington, Ph.D., an associate professor at the School of Fashion and interim assistant dean for the College of the Arts, and Joseph Underwood, Ph.D., an assistant professor of art history, have been working on this exhibition for three years, and it has generated impressive results.
“'TEXTURES' is the most ambitious exhibition in scope that the museum has ever done,” said Sarah Rogers, the director of the museum. “It was so important to find funds to support the passion and idea Tameka and Joseph had.”
The "TEXTURES" exhibition has received more than $100,000 in sponsorships and awards, including support from Proctor and Gamble ($25,000), Bank of America ($25,000) and L’Oréal ($10,000). The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the TEXTURES exhibition $35,000.
The NEA funding is a significant achievement and elevates the museum and the "TEXTURES" exhibition to the level of more established institutions in New York City and Chicago, said Underwood. NEA is the only federal funding that supports cultural endeavors and funding is highly competitive.
Ellington expressed her gratitude toward Terry Robinson, corporate relations officer and interim director of corporate relations at Kent State, for his significant fundraising efforts.
The show was originally scheduled to debut fall 2020; however, due to the pandemic, the exhibition is now set for fall 2021 and will continually produce programmatic events throughout its run.
Ellington and Underwood have devised three categories to focus on for the exhibition: Black Joy, Hair Politics, and Community and Memory. They have curated 250 objects from more than 50 artists to showcase the largest exhibition on Black Hair.
Ellington explained how Black people have dealt with and continue to deal with stereotypes about their hair texture. Some of these stereotypes categorize their hair texture or hairstyle as “unprofessional,” “unkept,” or “too African.”
“I was 19 years old and working at an amusement park when I first realized the people were trying to regulate me on how I should wear my hair,” Ellington said. “Some people like me choose not to be ashamed of their hair, and I could not have done this project without Dr. Underwood and my team.”
Some pieces people can look forward to seeing in this exhibition include work from Kehinde Wiley, known for his paint portrait of former President Barack Obama; Mary Sibande, a South African artist known for her life-size sculptures; and Lorna Simpson, a photographer and multimedia artist known for her pioneering work in conceptual photography.
For those unable to attend the exhibition in person, Ellington and Underwood have partnered to create a book called “TEXTURES: The History and Art of Black Hair” to encapsulate the entire exhibition on paper. The book also includes six essays on various topics of Black hair. The book is available for purchase now.
For more information about the "TEXTURES" exhibition, visit www.kent.edu/museum/event/textures-history-and-art-black-hair.
To learn more about Ellington and Underwood’s book “TEXTURES: the History and Art of Black Hair,” visit www.hirmerverlag.de/uk/titel-88-3/textures-2066/.