Born in Iceland, Shoplifter has been based in New York for twenty years. She explains, “when I was trying to figure out where to go for my MA, every time I thought about myself in Europe I saw it in black and white, and every time I saw myself in New York I saw it in colour. I thought… I’m going with the colour!” Indeed, colour plays a defining role in Shoplifter’s work. Rather than shy away from it as many contemporary artists do, she embraces it. In fact, it has become something of a signature. “One of the first pieces I ever did was in the window of MoMa. It was very baroque, maximalist and kind of loud.” she recalls, “I’m still meeting people who tell me how happy it made them to pass by this window filled with all this colour – almost like colour therapy”.
In her work, hair is manipulated in every way. It is brushed, woven, plaited and even melted. Sometimes it is braided into giant murals, or moulded into odd, charming figures, whose tongue-in-cheek titles (such as Bearded Loner About To Bend Over) reiterate her playful nature. Humour is at the core of her practice. After all, she argues, one of the most powerful things about art is surely its ability “to make people happy”?
We sat down with Shoplifter at her Brooklyn studio to discuss all things hair and art.