ART + CULTURE: Lauren Carly Shaw’s hirsute figures appear eerily human
Artworks: Lauren Carly Shaw
Interview: Alex Mascolo
Hair People is a collection of life-size figures covered in synthetic hair, created by Brooklyn based artist Lauren Carly Shaw. Through sculpture and installation, Shaw aims to explore the nature of the human form, allowing the viewer to fully consider the idea of the body and how we view ourselves. “I like the confrontational element of an object that takes up as much space in a room as a person does,” she explains.
"I began using synthetic hair in my work as a way to infuse figurative sculptures with a sense of the uncanny. I liked the idea of using something that isn't actually from the human body but speaks to its presence"
Each of Shaw’s figures is posed differently – hunched over, curled up on the floor – characteristics which make them appear even more human. “I’m interested in something apathetic, sad, withdrawn or introverted,” Shaw explains. “I want the sculptures to be approachable. When they are withdrawn, people naturally want to console them.”
Interior wooden skeletons form the base for the figures, which are then enhanced using recycled cardboard, expandable foam and papier-mâché. Shaw explains that the synthetic hair, which is attached last, is the most time-consuming element of all. “One of the biggest struggles is figuring out how the hair is meant to wrap around the figure,” she says, “I try and let the figures’ curves and posture dictate the pattern or ‘hairstyle'”.
What is the significance of the use of hair in this series? I began using synthetic hair in my work as a way to infuse figurative sculptures with a sense of the uncanny. I liked the idea of using something that isn’t actually from the human body but speaks to its presence. Albeit superficial, this element adds a life-like quality to the figures. Its use references beauty standards, vanity and the extreme lengths people go to in order to make themselves beautiful, in accordance with societal standards. These works are an exaggeration of that in some aspect.
Would you say that the hair evokes an animalistic quality? Overgrown hair evokes a sense of the animal nature within the human. The hair on these sculptures seems to have grown so long that the figures look like an evolved or different species of human.
What emotion do you hope to elicit in the viewer when viewing your pieces? I like to let the sculptures have an agency of their own. I like the idea that the viewer can be unsure if something is human or not, alive or dead. I want people to feel a sense of unease at the possibility that the figure could move, and to think about their own experiences with hair and how these exaggerations may inform and elicit a unique emotion or response.