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AMERICAN ROOTS is a multimedia project that examines how hair intersects with culture and identity in the United States. This project has been awarded a prestigious Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Candacy Taylor has traveled over 20.000 miles documenting hair salons that predominantly serve: African American, Caucasian, Dominican, Jamaican, Japanese, Orthodox Jewish, Pakistani and Transgender communities.
This project untangles the story of Americans and their hair, exploring the critical role it plays in creating our identity and the styling choices we have made to fit in, drop out and stand out. Statistics show that over 80 percent of Americans wish they had different hair than what we were born with, which is part of the reason we go to great lengths to change it. We don’t care if the process is toxic, painful, time-consuming or expensive. We spend billions feeding our insatiable appetite for products, styling aids and salon services to straighten it, color it, curl it, cut it off and cover it up with wigs and extensions.
AMERICAN ROOTS also won KCET's ArtBound contest and was featured on national television. See video clip below.
American Roots is the first project of its kind, ripe with cultural criticism, extensive field and historical research, iconic pop culture and documentary photography. It examines why hair matters and the critical role it plays in creating our identity. It traces the roots of ethnic hairstyling and acknowledges the power of media and celebrity culture.
It pulls back the curtain on salon culture. Whether it’s an upscale salon in midtown Manhattan, a Super Cuts in suburbia, or an abandoned building in the ‘hood — the beauty shop is an institution rooted in rituals as diverse as America. Amidst the fog of hair spray, the clicking of curling irons and the meditative hum of hair dryers, we literally and figuratively let our hair down and spill our secrets in the comfort of cushioned vinyl. Clients are loyal to their stylists and these relationships last for decades. It's a place to tell stories, listen, be heard, get advice and a dose of courage to walk through life’s challenges.
The project also examines how the rise in bi-racial and mixed race populations are changing not only the way we look, act and see but is also changing our hair texture. An article in the Los Angeles times confirmed that salons are being nudged out of their comfort zone to serve a new, mixed-race America with different hair textures.
This is a fascinating time as the very essence of our identity as a country is changing. As a result, new dialogues are emerging and this project captures that conversation. Although hair may appear to be something based in vanity it is really a rich, complex topic for discovery about American culture and about ourselves.
This exhibit features photography, multimedia and installation of over 200 hair antiques and beauty memorabilia including products, advertisements and styling aids such as gas-powered curling irons and pressing combs and hair dryers from the early 20th century to the 1980s.
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