Open Barbers is a social enterprise which offers a personalised haircutting experience with a queer and trans friendly attitude. Led by Greygory Vass and Felix Lane, Open Barbers aims to celebrate people’s appearance the way they want to be seen. The salon offers a sliding scale of payment, welcoming clients to pay what they can afford. The venue includes a welcoming hang out area, with a range of teas, fanzines and biscuits to make clients feel at home.
From May to September 2016, Amy is in residence at Open Barbers’ new salon space in east London. Here, she is drawing hair portraits of people who have just had their hair cut. The pictures trace their sitters’ hair only – no face shape, no identifying features – and will eventually be compiled into a ‘Look Book’ for the salon. This Look Book will be a catalogueofhairstyleideas that clients can choose from, without the limiting associations of gender, age or attractiveness that hairdresser’simagesnormallyimpose.
In September 2016, Amy’s 400 hair portraits and the Look Book will be exhibited at Hotel Elephant in Elephant & Castle, South London, as the first major exhibit in Hotel Elephant’s new Spare Street space.
Amy’s delicate and beautiful hair portraits highlight the seperation between appearance and identity, anonymising hair and suggesting there’s more to people than the way they look. In the context of Open Barbers, which is particularly concerned with gender identity, this intervention into the relationship between image and self represents the freedom Open Barbers’ clients exercise in the salon.
The drawings also aestheticize hair itself, celebrating its beauty beyond the ability to represent. At the centre of all this lies the relationship between Amy and her subjects: “The portrait is a way of having a conversation,” she says. Her pictures point beyond the realm of appearance: they are the catalyst for a relationship, and a document of what takes place. After each portrait, Amy invites the people she has drawn to give the work a title, based on what they have been talking or thinking about whilst being the subject of Amy’s artistic gaze. So far, these titles include:
Drawing & care
What’s the goss?
Assuming too much
Don’t make me look like Hitler
Broad city and Lesbian nuns
Politics are broken
Just hanging 😉
Jump into the fire
Long way from home
These titles draw attention to the relationships between Amy and her sitters, and therefore the relationships at the centre of any performance of identity. Before they leave, Amy gives her sitters a carbon copy of the work she has done. These tracings are partial memories of the process of the image – they don’t record every line that Amy has drawn, but they do include smudges and echoes of the movements of her hand.
As part of her residency, Amy will be running a workshop with Gendered Intelligence, a community interest company that supports young trans people aged 8 – 25.
Amy Has also invited artists SCOTTEE, Rudy Lowe & Stephanie Goldberg to deliver workshops.
‘Let’s Be Angry’ 02/06/16 SCOTTEE invites any aspiring ranters to a writing workshop about anger and humour and stuff that Fucks us off.