Performance at UMass Proves Hair is Art

Story by Marla Friedson
​Photography by Demetrius McLester

On Monday, March 5, hairdresser and artist Kamala Bhagat showed that hair is art during her “Hairdressers Are My Heroes” performance at the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA).

Bhagat—who specializes in taking works of art like sculptures and transforming them into hairstyles—worked on the hair of artist Sonya Clark to recreate a piece from the “Five Takes on African Art/42 Paintings by Fred Wilson” exhibit, on view at UMCA through April 29.

To Bhagat, transforming sculptures to styles is a way to celebrate artists throughout time. It’s a way to honor the original hairdresser who created the style, the sculptor who made the piece, and to the modern hair stylist who transformed it onto the patron—in this case Clark.

“Hairdressers Are My Hereos” works to address a variety of themes such as artistic interpretation, anonymity and value, performative action, and social practice. This specific piece supports hairdressers as artists and breaks down the barrier between hair salon and art museum. During the event, Clark and Bhagat had discussions with both each other and with the audience on important topics related to race, culture and society.

It was no surprise that the final product was stunning. In fact, Bhagat comes from a family of artists. Her mother has a knack for African doll-making and her father uses African drumming to teach chemistry. In addition to specialized in intricate braid-making, Bhagat also designs clothing. She loves seeing her creations on models and it motivates her to keep pushing forward with new innovative ideas. Her favorite activity is when clients come to her with no preference of style and let her hands and imagination take control.

To view parts of this performance, check out our three-part video series here, here, and here.

To see other performances from UMCA, visit the UMCA website

Marla Friedson is a senior double-majoring in communication and journalism with certificate in film. Demetrius McLester is a sophomore double-majoring in art and sociology. They are both currently working in the Office of News and Media Relations as diversity social media assistants.