black hair flag

SONYA CLARK STIRS HISTORY and explores cultural meaning using human hair and all of its heavy and joyous symbolism. The artist describes hair as power, the essence of identity and a marker of chronology, wisdom and adornment. Her “Black Hair Flag” is currently on view in the “Posing Beauty in African American Culture” exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Composed of cloth and thread, employed to look like hair, the textile work is a hybrid of the American flag and the confederate flag.

Virginia Public Radio reports (audio included) on the irony of Clark’s work on display inside the museum while a contingent of Virginia Flaggers protests outside the institution. The group objects to the removal of a pair of confederate battle flags from the confederate chapel on the grounds.

“As soon as I cornrowed the stripes and Bantu knotted the stars the battle flag emerges, so those complicated histories get interwoven and that’s what was missing.” — Sonya Clark, Virginia Public Radio

While she was creating the work, her husband said the piece was going to get her in trouble, but the artist believes the work offers something everyone can appreciate. “They should be happy there is a confederate flag actually in the museum,” Clark says, referring to the Flaggers. “I have no problem with retracing what our history is, it’s that somewhere in that proclomation there was no dicussion of the contribution of African Americans.”

Washington, D.C.-born Clark chairs the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. In addition to hair, she utilizes combs, thread, cloth, copper and beads in her practice. Clark’s work is on view at VMFA through July 27 and in “Multiple Exposure: Jewelry and Photography” at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York through Sept. 14, 2014. CT

TOP IMAGE: “Black Hair Flag,” 2010 (cloth and thread) by Sonya Clark | via soniaclark.com