14 November 2013

How does your hair look? with Ruby McGregor

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae

My mum still has a piece of my hair from my first haircut. Why? Is she planning on cloning me or performing a satanic ritual? I asked her. She said: “it was the first part of you as a whole that you lost.” But is hair that connected to people as beings? As something that can be so easily slashed with little feeling how can it hold so much importance? With one swift movement, years of tender care can be simply chopped off. The process inflicts virtually no physical pain as well. However, the emotional trauma and the symbolic loss is incomprehensible.

Ruby McGregor, a burgeoning Brisbane artist, sought to explore the importance of hair in her latest work. From cut-off ponytails, matted split-ends to keepsake locks, Ruby looked at the many facets of hair and its vast meaning. 

SE: How have you seen your practice evolve over your three years of study?
RM: I finally found myself being able to let go of my own prejudices and be concerned about what it is that I create and now I just create as I want. Which has been kind of liberating. And I just like to keep myself guessing and asking myself questions as well as trying to evoke that within the audience.

SE: So does this piece have a name?
RM: No, it’s just a collective of human hair.

SE: Where did the concept come from?
RM: The concept came from initially the idea that hair is what defines you as a person… A haircut can define you and say so much about your personality. If you’ve got long straight hair it says something, if a fringe, something else.

SE: Where did you come up with the idea?

RM: I guess from my own search for identity, culturally and in community I’m involved in.

SE: And why did you chose to represent it in this way?

RM: Because hair has always been big for me. I’ve always taken a lot of effort into my hair as a defining feature. And I know how upset people get when they get a bad haircut because it just ruins you for weeks while it’s growing out.

SE: When you first started working on this project what did it look like, how did it change and why did it change?
RM: Well when I first started working with hair I started painting hair and I wasn’t very happy with it. Then I cut all my hair off and I saved it in a cup. Then I came in [to studio] I was like ‘I’ll try and figure out something to do with it’ and when I went to tip it out it all stayed in position. I realised I could use moulds and mould hair into place. I just thought it looked really interesting visually, so I just kept trying to do that. But then people don’t cut their hair off that much, so it’s difficult to find. So I started collecting it from friends I know who are hairdresser at salons. I ended up putting it into plastic bags and when I shake the plastic bag around it ends up matting together kind of like felt. I was just really intrigued by that entire process and so I just kept repeating it.

SE: When you cut your hair off what did that mean for you?
RM: Well for me, I did it as a ‘I’m a new person, a new being’. I did it at the end of my last relationship and it was a big ‘Come forth, this is who I am, I am woman hear me roar!’. I went from having very long hair to a bob, which was the shortest my hair’s ever been.

SE: So what are you doing in the future as far as you art practice, do you have any idea?
RM: Well I want to keep continuing with this because I don’t think it’s fully resolved. I’m hoping to do honours next year or the year after. I just want to continue with my practice?

Disclaimer (FULL DISCLOSURE: The author has a personal relationship with Ruby McGregor)

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