Review: Queenies, Fades, & Blunts
05 aug 2014 by Jessica Lynne
art:i:curate contributor Jessica Lynne reviews Brooklyn exhibition 'Queenies, Fades, & Blunts' by the art collective The Lonely Londoners.
There are few rituals that matter more to me than my visits to the hair salon. It is a glorious all day adventure. The familiar faces. The quarterly decisions about my new hair color. The scalp massages. My wise stylist. The gossip. Yes, even the gossip. When I’m at the salon, I don’t have to worry about the politics of being young and black and woman. I’m just a girl looking to touch up her ‘fro. I step into the madness of my hair salon and I immediately feel full.
For communities of color, hair salons and barbershops are safe spaces, spaces where our existences are not challenged or threatened or ignored. Masking as a type of raucousness - the loud political debates, the double booked appointments - is a grandeur that even the most highbrow of arenas cannot replicate. In some regards, being in the salon is less about the actual styling of hair (because who hasn’t walked into a salon hoping to leave with some version of Beyonce’s latest do only to leave with a style that is anything but?) than it is about the affirmations, the confirmations.
It is this theme - the relationship between identity, ritual, culture, and space - that was explored in the recent Brooklyn pop-up show, 'Queenies, Fades, & Blunts', curated by the London-based art haus, The Lonely Londoners. It was also the young collective’s first U.S. show.
Mediating critical examinations of beauty standards and cultural histories, particularly for queer people of color, QFB was an interrogation of the ways in which notions of self are articulated and celebrated. Though small in scale, QFB packed a powerful punch. The show featured the work of four artists - Quilombo, Mo Juicy, Khaleb Brooks and Lonely Londoner Kareem Reid. The bold prints and digital photography of Mo Juicy and Quilombo asked viewers to ponder the politics of hair (another hot topic of conversation in most black or brown communities) while a short film by Brooks and Reid offered personal reflections by the artists on their own rituals and cultural identities as expressed through hair.
Far too often, bodies of color, especially queer bodies of color, are deemed unworthy, abnormal or unnatural. By constructing in some senses, a site specific salon/barbershop, QFB offered viewers the opportunity to meditate on the falseness of those assertions through an intimate encounter with history, herstory and hairstory.
QFB was an exercise in vulnerability that worked. And worked really well.
QFB Guest at the exhibition opening, Image courtesy of cisnegros Tumblr page