by Jess Howard
(Note: Some links NSFW.)
I’ve written articles focusing on body hair before, with my previous article specifically discussing pubic hair. I was questioning why we, as a twentyfirst century audience, have such a problem with modern day depictions of perfectly natural hair growth in a way that, historically, viewers haven’t always had a problem with. Since then, Sarah Louise Bryan has gone a step further, and designed and produced an outfit consisting of a bra and floor length skirt, both made entirely out of pubic hair.
Bryan created the dress after spending six months collecting pubic hair, in a bid to create an item of clothing more shocking and scandalous than the infamous meat dress that singer and performer Lady Gaga wore to the MTV video music awards in 2010. “I really wanted the world’s most unique and disgusting design” said Bryan “so when someone sees a design they know it was me instantly”. But should we consider the creation an act of attention grabbing media fodder, or address and analyse what the creation, and the media’s reaction, says about our attitudes to body hair as a whole?
On the Huffington Post, Bryan is quoted as asking “I thought of the design because of how gross it is. I thought, ‘What would be the worst thing to have on your dress?’”. Unquestionably, her particular choice of medium is a tad unorthodox, but it’s also frustrating. To consider a completely natural, and hygienically necessary, area of hair to be gross and ‘the worst thing to have on a dress’ is undoubtedly a u-turn for people advocating the refusal to remove their body hair. I’m in no way suggesting that those who choose to remove their body hair are in the wrong, but instead of vilifying those who decide not to wax, shave or choose any other method of hair removal, surely we should just accept that hair growth is a natural, and in no way disgusting, part of maturing and going through puberty?
Artists, particularly contemporary artists, are no stranger from forcing their audience to consider and analyse the art they are exposed to in great depth and detail. To shock is in no way a new phenomenon within the art world, even in regards to pubic hair. Between 1995 – 96 artists Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford collaborated to produce a serious of works entitled Closed Contact. Within this series a particular piece, named Closed Contact #10 featured Saville laying flat above the photographer onto a piece of plexiglass, showing soft and supple flesh and a pubic hair adorned crotch. It seems body hair is far less shocking within art history than in the fashion world.
It seems body hair is far less shocking within art history than in the fashion world.
Bryan, who previously created a dress made out of 3,000 Skittles worth over £4,000 that sadly melted whilst being transported to Los Angeles, has said that she would only sell the dress to ‘a high profile celebrity or museum’, partly as a result of having to resize the bra to fit the new owner. Since then the creator had revealed that she plans to create an outfit involving human sperm. Whilst this piece is undoubtedly being produced to elicit shock and awe in her audience – providing the sperm is used hygienically – all Bryan is once again doing is using a completely natural substance to create an item of clothing.
As an art historian, the idea of using body hair and bodily fluids doesn’t really shock me that much, artists have been utilising the unexpected for years. What I do have a problem with is the creators’ own insistence that the substance is grotesque or disgusting. We all grow body hair, so using it to incite revulsion in an audience is actually getting kind of dull. Next!
Featured image © Sarah Louise Bryan/DailyDot