Image: Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Harmonic Hairdoo

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir

Born in Reykjavík, Iceland
Works in New York, New York

Since the dawn of human culture, hair has been a medium for self-expression and identity. Hair is the original fashion accessory, possessed (at one time or another) by nearly every person. It has been braided, plaited, twisted, wrapped, piled, coiled, looped, teased, curled, straightened, twirled, sculpted, shaved, snipped, bound and woven – manipulated in every way imaginable. Using human, horse and artificial hair (typically the medium of the hairstylist and costume designer), artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir pushes the material well beyond its decorative and theatrical applications to explore its strange and magical possibilities.

Inherent in each meticulously crafted piece is the sense of fantasy that arises directly from her cultural heritage. Like many Icelandic artists, Arnardóttir incorporates traditional craft techniques in her work. Hand-crafted hair flowersdirect descendents of Victorian-era memory flowers made from the hair of a deceased loved oneembellish her wig sculptures, adding a level of excess, intricacy and ornament to her work. She also explores the two-dimensional possibilities of her aesthetic in digitally manipulated images of braided wall installations that are produced as over-scale ornately patterned wallpapers and printed fabrics.

Image: Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Hair Sculpture for Björk's Medusa

Arnardóttir delights in contrastsbetween the artificial and the natural, between tight control and organic looseness, between global influences and local craft traditions, and between the handcrafted and the manufactured. Her finished objects and installations are magical at the same time as they are grounded in the physical reality of makingthe essence of supernatural.

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Siamese Comets, 2008
Synthetic hair and C-print on fabric; Courtesy of the artist
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Harmonic Hairdoo #W6, 2008;
C-print on self-adhesive wallpaper; Courtesy of the artist
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Hairy Helmet #2, 2008;
Woven and braided natural and artificial hair; Courtesy of the artist
Museum of Contemporary Craft