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Luisa Popovic is an artist whose work moves between the realms of art, craft and hair – often, all at once. Originally from San Francisco, Popovic attended the Sassoon Academy in Los Angeles, where she honed her skills in precision cutting and creative styling. Now based in Brooklyn, “in a small room covered wall-to-wall with my own work”, Popovic prefers not to limit herself to one single discipline. Instead, she splits her time between cutting, styling and colouring hair, fashioning handmade wigs, painting, drawing, and embroidering. “Not one of these things exists without the others in my world,” she says, “I want to keep blurring the lines between these different mediums as much as I can. One thing hair has taught me about making art is to finish what I start. You can’t walk away from a haircut halfway through because you’re over it, you have to problem solve and finish. The discipline that comes with doing hair has informed the way I paint, the way I embroider, or the way I put together a wig, and all these things teach me about the way I do hair.”

INFRINGE spoke to Popovic about how the discipline of hairdressing has informed her approach to creating art.

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Luisa Popovic by Hugo Scott 
“I’ve always been inspired by Vidal Sassoon’s personal story, how he redefined the hair industry without asking for permission”
Luisa Popovic
Luisa Popovic by Michael B Janey

How would you describe your approach to hair? My approach is to always try something new. Currently my rule is to find a way to make hair look like some other material, or use another material and make it look like hair. I’m inspired by avant-garde and sculptural wigs, and adding accessories and products into hair that aren’t necessarily meant to be used in that way.

In addition to working with hair, you also draw, paint and embroider. Would you say you have a similar approach to all these disciplines, or do they feel like separate worlds? Definitely similar, I like to do meticulous and detail-oriented work. When I was in high school I had an English teacher who said that he could tell I was really into my writing when my face was an inch away from the paper, and that’s pretty much how I get with all the art I make. I have a need to get microscopically close to my work and then back away to see a bigger picture. Sometimes it drives me a little crazy, I’ll get halfway through a project and think, ‘why do I do this to myself’, but it always pays off in the end.

What first drew you to the hair world? When I was in kindergarten I decided to chop all my hair into a bowl cut because I thought it would make me stand out. I felt very defined by my hair and specifically wanted mine to look different. When I was 14 I got my first job working as a receptionist for my childhood hairstylist once a week. I loved the vibe of being in the salon and watching the stylists, how they all seemed very free and expressive via their work and personal style. I asked my boss what I should do if I wanted to do hair, and he told me to go to the Sassoon Academy in LA to attend cosmetology school as soon as I could. It was tunnel vision for me after that.

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Elizabeth Wirija (Paper Magazine)

After attending the Sassoon Academy in LA, you continued your training in London and New York. How do you think that living and working in these different cities has influenced you? Starting off in the LA Academy showed me early on that hair is a form, a design, and should be approached with intention and refinement. When I got to London I was so inspired. I hadn’t been around that kind of extreme fashion or art world before. I got there and thought, ‘wow, I actually fit in here’. I felt that the people I met in London truly valued individuality. I chose New York because it was the closest thing I could find to London without needing a work visa.

Living and training in both these cities, I was fortunate to learn from so many more of Sassoon’s masters and go deeper into how I can follow these strict formulas, then use that knowledge to break them and create something new. I’ve always been inspired by Vidal Sassoon’s personal story, how he redefined the hair industry without asking for permission. He created his own system, and built an international empire with a group of like-minded creatives based on that. Vidal Sassoon basically turned hair cutting and education into an art cult. I can’t think of one hair education platform that doesn’t use some aspect of his format.

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Simon Parris (KRIMEWATCH, Static Shock Weekend, London, 2017)
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Simon Parris (KRIMEWATCH, Static Shock Weekend, London, 2017)

Who or what is currently inspiring your work? Most recently, the work of Julien d’Ys. I’ll always be inspired and intrigued by people who take the road less travelled to their success. Seeing his work in person at the Comme Des Garçons exhibit at The Met sparked something for me. I left thinking, ‘I have to make some crazy wigs now, if he can do it, why can’t I?’ It put into perspective how my art and hair work can co-exist. It was right on time because I had been feeling a bit scattered by all the work I wanted to do creatively, and I realized that there was no need to choose.

What does hair mean to you? It means that I get to make a living expressing myself creatively. That I get to interact with people from all different walks of life and share these vulnerable one-on-one moments with them. It means I always strive to be better and push the envelope with my work, and never get trapped in a comfort zone.

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Luisa Popovic (Distant)

Images Michael B Janey, Simon Parris, Luisa PopovicHugo ScottElizabeth Wirija
Interview Emma de Clercq

See the full story only in INFRINGE ISSUE #3 HERE

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