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In her series Hair, Brussels-based artist Elodie Antoine creates intricate, hair-like sculptures that embody abstract living forms. The pieces, which are covered in thick strands of hemp, are braided, brushed, styled and accessorized. Inspired by her young daughter’s love of fairytales – and the long, glossy locks which are so often the defining feature of fairytale princesses – Antoine’s work explores the attraction-repulsion paradox associated with materials such as hair. We spoke to her about her artistic process and what kind of reaction she hopes her artworks will evoke.

Chevelure échouée, 2014
Suspension aux chignons, 2014

What were your inspirations behind these pieces?
This work was inspired by my daughter – I started it when she was four. At that age, little girls are usually bathed in stories about princesses with amazing long hair, like Rapunzel. What I found interesting is the contradiction that lays within this; long hair mesmerizes but can also easily disgust. Hair is both a symbol for femininity and animalism. Western culture is full of these symbolic hair tales: Medusa, Samson, Christ or Mary Magdalene.

Why do you use hemp instead of hair to create your sculptures?
Hemp looks like neglected, wild hair and is less charming than real hair. Its dirty blonde, messed-up quality provides a refreshing contrast to the often intricate hairdos that I create. And to me, hemp already looks like hair, so I didn’t have to do much in order to recreate the illusion. Just a nice combing!

Suspension au tutu, 2014
Meduse, 2015
“Little girls are usually bathed in stories about princesses with amazing long hair, like Rapunzel.”
Elodie Antoine
Princesse au diadème, 2014
Princesse aux rubans, 2014
Mine, 2015

Can you tell us about your working process?
All my works start with a drawing. I then sew a cotton-filled silhouette that becomes the base layer for the sculpture. Following that, I sew the hemp one lock at a time to give the sculpture the form I have in mind and allow for the planned hairdo. Finally, I start creating, step by step, the hairdos with the plaits, buns, diadems, clips and ribbons. And then finish with the perfect combing!

How do you want the viewer to feel when looking at your pieces?
I try to find the right balance between attraction and repulsion. Viewers tend to react in very different ways, though often with strong feelings. The works can be seen both as beautiful and disturbing.

Trophée aux nattes, 2014
Trophée chignons, 2014

Images Elodie Antoine Website elodieantoine.be
Interview Alex Mascolo

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