This project by Anne Lemanski explores the shifting roles of women in the United States throughout the 20th century – through hair. The ten sculptures in ‘A Century of Hair’ explore how the momentous events of the 20th century – war, changes in technology, birth control, women’s suffrage – influenced and shaped American women’s identities during this time. Each piece takes the shape of a hairstyle representing a different decade between 1900 and 1990, including the iconic 1920s bob and the feathered ‘Farrah Fawcett’ waves of the 1970s.
Using an eclectic array of materials, her choices here are just as symbolic as the hairstyles themselves. By using materials that were particularly significant for each decade, Lemanski nods to cultural and political events that took place during this time. For example, the 1940s sculpture, a wavy hairdo titled ‘For the Boys’, has been made from hundreds of World War II ration stamps.
Each sculpture depicted below is accompanied by a short paragraph, written by the artist. Here Lemanski gives insight into the decade, and significant issues for women in the United States during this time.
1900 – AMERICAN QUEEN COAL COOK Made from: Copper rod, tooled copper, artificial sinew. This hairstyle is based on the ‘Gibson girl’ look, popular in the early 1900s. The tooled copper represents a design that would have been found on a coal cook stove of that time period. This symbolises how women spent much of their days cooking and tending the fire in these temperamental appliances.
1910 – MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER Made from: Copper rod, embroidery on silk, Queen Anne’s lace, artificial sinew. This hairstyle is made from Queen Anne’s lace. Birth control was virtually unknown in the 1910s, and so women were known to self-induce abortions. The ingestion of the seeds of, or a tea made from, Queen Anne’s lace was a well-known home remedy to help this process.
1920 – WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS Made from: Copper rod, cyanotype on linen, linen thread. The twenties were a time of mass consumerism, and electricity was becoming more prevalent in middle class homes. With this electricity came many gadgets to help alleviate the drudgery of housework. Electric vacuums became popular in this decade.
1930 – STONE SOUP Made from: Copper rod, vintage linoleum, artificial sinew. The Depression and the Dust Bowl sum up the thirties. The accumulation of these two marked the decade as the worst of times for working class families. I chose to use original 1930s linoleum as a salute to everyone who endured the time.
1940 – FOR THE BOYS Made from: Copper rod, WWII ration stamps, vintage pinups, artificial sinew. World War II drove the attitude of the forties. Women went to work while their men went to war. On top of working day jobs, wives and mothers attempted to keep a sense of normality at home while everything from coffee to gasoline was being rationed by the government.
1950 – JUST ADD WATER Made from: Painted copper rod, acetate, cast plastic shoes, thread. The fifties was a decade of the “perfect” household. Thanks to packaged foods, women could prepare meals with a perception of “no fuss” and look fabulous while doing it. The popular moulded salad of the fifties is the inspiration behind this mandarin orange Jell-O hairstyle.
1960 – OCCUPATION: HOUSEWIFE Made from: Painted copper rod, vintage fabric, thread. The sixties were the beginning of societal changes. I chose to focus on “the feminine mystique”; the silent suffering of housewives yearning for a fulfilment other than that of running a household.
1970 – TONIGHT’S DELIGHT Made from: Painted copper rod, fabric, vintage iron-on transfer, vinyl, thread. The sexual revolution that began in the sixties continued into the seventies, thanks to Disco and much more to culturally define the decade. This hairstyle is inspired by Farrah Fawcett, a well-known pop icon of the era.
1980 – THE PROFESSIONAL WOMAN Made from: Copper rod, neckties, thread. The eighties marked the time when women really started to break into professions widely dominated by men. The first American woman astronaut went into space, and the first woman justice was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The use of men’s neckties as the material for this hairstyle symbolises the career minded woman.
1990 – SELF-PORTRAIT Made from: Copper rod, ink on rawhide, artificial sinew. Working on this project led me to think about my place in history as a woman, so I chose to end the series with the hairstyle I wore for a majority of the nineties. The use of rawhide and ink is representative of tattoos.
Text Emma de Clercq & Anne Lemanski Photography Black Box Photography Images courtesy of Anne Lemanski Website