Art, Community, Edge

‘Black Hair Magic’ exhibit reclaims the beauty of natural styles

image1 (1).JPG

Alexis McDonald stands by two of the pieces from her "Black Hair Magic" exhibit, on display at Richter Library until the end of the fall semester. Photo courtesy Alexis McDonald.

When fifth-year student Alexis McDonald took a photography class and got free rein to do a project on whatever she liked, she had one goal: to “take up space” as a black woman and to take something often criticized, demonized and politicized – black hair – and show its beauty.

It was during this time in her life that McDonald was acutely aware of how black hair had become controversial. Kylie Jenner’s cornrows became the center of national debate when she posted a picture of her hair on Instagram. The conversation got even more heated when Zendaya walked on the Oscars red carpet with dreads, and Giuliana Rancic of “E! News” said it smelled like “patchouli” and “weed.”

McDonald decided to highlight black hair in a positive light. That’s when she created the project that would lead to her latest exhibit, “Black Hair Magic,” on display in the Digital Media Lab on the first floor of the Richter Library.

The portraits are of black men and women wearing different hairstyles that are often appropriated or politicized in the national debate on race. The photos have the proper names of hairstyles in the descriptions, too, because McDonald said people didn’t understand the frustration black people felt when their styles were worn by non-black people, like when Marc Jacobs’ models wore ‘mini buns’ that were actually Bantu knots.

“I was just real tired of all of that press, so I decided I was going to show people black hair, the names of the styles, and show the hair on actual people it originates from,” McDonald said.

The hairstyles on display are meant to make a point. “Fly Locs Fly” is a photo of a woman with long dreadlocks. McDonald said the photo was a response to the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling back in 2016 that made it legal for employers to fire or turn away applicants based solely on their hairstyle.

And McDonald made it a point to include subjects of different skin tones and hairstyles, to show the breadth and diversity of blackness.

“I want to get people to subconsciously to understand that we all might be black but we don’t look alike,” McDonald said. “I hope to spark a conversation, really.”

As far as getting the library to showcase her art, McDonald said it wasn’t an issue. She worked closely with administrators, including E-Learning & Emerging Technologies librarian Vanessa Rodriguez.

“We requested this specific collection because we find it visually appealing,” sad Rodriguez, who helped McDonald secure the space for an entire semester.

The display took on greater meaning for McDonald when she started engaging in thought-provoking conversations with people who saw her work. She said even getting her art on display in the first place is a victory.

“I’m happy because it’s unlikely and rare that black art is displayed in white spaces,” she said. “It’s very important to get that black representation on campus. I feel like it’s important to show people that your work is valuable. Even if you don’t want to engage with the piece, it’s literally in your face.”

McDonald said she hopes to expand the project to include black men with natural hairstyles, because they are often left out of the conversation.

The exhibit will be on display until the end of the fall semester in the Digital Media Lab located on the first floor of the Richter Library.

November 6, 2017

Reporters

Morgan Threatt


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The college football season doesn't begin until the end of August, but that never stops media o ...

There were indications, even before Lonnie Walker IV was selected No. 18 by the San Antonio Spurs in ...

Add another player to the Miami Hurricanes' 2019 recruiting class. Defensive end Jahfari Harvey ...

From the onset, the Miami Hurricanes' plan was for the Carol Soffer football indoor practice fa ...

Gino DiMare on Tuesday stood in a spot that two men before him had crafted into a pinnacle of succes ...

At the University of Miami, employee recognition comes in many forms. ...

Community art project encourages the public to explore the vibrant downtown area of Coral Gables and ...

It appears that his third run for the presidency will be successful as he distances himself from the ...

Teachers tackle challenging questions at the Holocaust Studies Summer Institute. ...

A University of Miami lecturer explores the role of the front porch in black communities. ...

The University of Miami volleyball program will host nine ACC home matches and the Sunshine State Ch ...

Walker picked 18th overall by San Antonio Spurs, Brown 42nd by Detroit Pistons. ...

Gino DiMare was introduced as the 10th head baseball coach in Canes' history. ...

The University of Miami women's golf team had three individuals selected to the 2018 Atlantic C ...

Haley Templeton is set to travel to Detroit, Mich., on Friday to train and compete with the U.S. Wom ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.