Maryland Art Place lets its hair down for offbeat exhibit


April 30, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

You enter the galleries of Maryland Art Place these days through an arch made of hair (actually it's more like a baldachin, a canopy supported on pillars). Two hundred wigs went into it; it's by Carol Shuford; it's called "Hair Hierarchy Myth"; and it introduces you to the "Hair Ball Exhibition," a show entirely devoted to the subject of hair.

The Hair Ball, a MAP extravaganza hosted by John Waters (of "Hairspray" fame), is over, having drawn 600 people on Saturday night. But lingering on until May 11 is the exhibit associated with it, a conglomeration of individual works by 98 artists plus eight installations, every single one of them in some way related to hair.

This was not a juried show; anybody could submit. And it's not a show that takes itself -- or should be taken by anyone else -- too seriously. It's all in the spirit of fun, and some of the most outrageous items are the most rewarding; anything semi-straight looks positively stodgy in these surroundings.

So let us concentrate on the likes of "Mary Ann Toinette" by Chester Overlock III. Mary Ann is a mannequin dressed in a parody of an 18th century costume, with candles in her shoes, a chain wrapped around her neck for a necklace, tassels hanging from her -- ahem -- strategic points, and plastic forks in her enormous coiffure which culminates in the little man and woman who usually hang out on the tops of wedding cakes. In this case, however, as befits the origin of the piece, the little woman is carrying her head, not wearing it.

Nearby is Robert Cousineau's "Girl with Goldfish in Her Hair." These are not paper or plastic fish -- this hairdo incorporates a bowl with goldfish swimming around in it. Linda DePalma's "Mr. Chia, to You" is a head with real grass growing straight up out of it. And continuing with the theme of nature, we have Joseph Nero's "Rat Stabber Shoe," made with real rat hide; at the tip of the toe are the rat's head and front feet, and the heel consists of its hind feet and tail.

There are, of course, works based on stories involving hair, including Ellen Burchenal's "Samson" and Helen Glazer's "Lady Godiva." And there is John Finnely's and Barbara Wilks' rather complex literary conceit, "Prufrock's Lament," with its photos of sculpture and it's lines from T. S. Eliot: "And I have known the arms already, known them all/Arms that are braceleted and white and bare/[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]"

And there are the puns: Susan Lowe's "Our Lady of Hairford Road"; Nancy Wilson's "Hairplanes"; Leslie Wies' "Hair Piece" which includes pictures of "Hairy S. Truman," "The Tortoise and the Hair" and "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow"; and Jonathan West's "Bagels and Locks."

Not like this show? As the United Art Workers, who did the "Hairstory" installation in the cabaret, would say: "Sheer hairesy."

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