As a teenager, Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, came across a “victorian memory flower” in an antique shop in Reykjavík.
“It’s an old craft developed in Europe in the 1600’s and repeated with great talent since, around the world. It had a great impact on me, the action, intention and the unusual ingredient, how it can be simultaneously beautiful and creepy and how it is one of the few physical parts of us that can survive us. It represents a portrait before photography and early textile work.”
As a line on paper
Hrafnhildur, a.k.a. Shoplifter, holds a BFA from the Painting department of the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Since graduation, hair has been one of the main materials in Hrafnhildur’s works.
“When you work with intuition and how materials make you feel it’s hard to pin-point the origin of your choices. I chose to work with materials that triggered some sort of creative action in myself and when hair entered the picture I didn’t really analyze why right away, to me that would kind of take away the purity of the action.
I prefer to analyze after the fact and have found many memories and obvious fascination from an early age that became an inspiration and bubbled up to the surface eventually. I look at the strand of hair as a line on a paper you draw and that became a starting point that keeps growing into endless directions. This medium inspires me for many reason, it’s a fiber that grows on everyone’s body and demands a certain creativity or problem solving for most people when it comes to choosing your hairstyle or how to tame it or not.
It’s all a creative process even though we don’t usually think of it as such. It’s the remnant of the beast in us, wildness and nature. And now I use mostly synthetic hair extensions that you use in hair salons to add to your own hair or for costumes. It’s vastly mass produced and has become such an interesting element in pop culture and to me such a curious evidence of the human inventiveness. I enjoy taking a mass produced material and giving it a new role and a different platform to communicate creativity and a certain absurdity.”
Around the world
Hrafnhildur has exhibited her work in many different types of venues, for example Reykjavik Museum and Hverfisgalleri in Iceland, MoMA in New York and the music festival Day for Night in Houston Texas this past December.
“I’ve exhibited in most of the Nordic countries and in Europe, in both galleries and museums and most recently in Australia where the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art commissioned a 500 square meter surface of hair in the form of an installation called Nervescape V, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Modern Art wing of the Museum. It was one of the craziest and most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career and I’m so grateful to the curator, Geraldine Barlow, and the amazing staff who organized and helped me realize this grand undertaking.
I’m about to participate in a large group exhibition at Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in Margate in England this January. I’ve created a capsule collection of clothing and accessories in collaboration with & Other Stories, launching this February, and then I’m off to LA to create an installation for the Reykjavik Music Festival taking place in the wonderful Frank Gehry building that houses the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”
Yes, it’s almost all about hair – black, white, red, yellow, pink… or grey like Hrafnhildur’s own hair.
“When I started graying at the early age of 20 it really didn’t bother me much. I thought it was kinda cool and even though I always play with colors and hairstyles, I’ve celebrated my natural haircolor in the past 20 years or so because I just think it’s beautiful and a personal statement to dismiss the pressure society puts on women in particular to do anything they can to look younger. We call ourselves “grayliens” and it’s perhaps time for a Gray Pride!”
Photo by Natasha Harth
Photo by Elísabet Davíðsdóttir
For more information about Shoplifter visit www.shoplifter.us.
Tags: Hair Art, Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Icelandic artist, Shoplifter
Svava Jónsdóttir, who is Icelandic, has worked as a journalist for the past 23 years and has written three books. She has a BA-degree in Spanish and literature, a diploma in journalism, a teaching certification and a diploma in international relations. She is also a member of the board of the United Nations Association of Iceland. Her interests? Literature and music; she studied music for about a decade. And she likes to travel.
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