Sweet Dreams and Gut Reactions is a bedroom, our most intimate of domestic spaces, made public in a gallery setting, but with a playful twist – all of the objects have been rendered and embellished with hair. Hair has been a recurring material in my creative practice, and I find its tactile, curious materiality enticing and seductive. Over time, hair has regularly grown out of my photographic constructions created using images of human hair and skin.
This work has largely come about through a growing interest in the connections between art and science, and personal experience of serious illnesses and disorders within my extended family: breast cancer, Ulcerative Colitis, colon cancer, heart attack, insomnia and epilepsy. My sister, who passed away in 1971 from a massive seizure, used to pluck strands of her hair and bite off the root. This has remained a vivid image in my memory, and could well be the unconscious trigger to work with hair. It also links in with Trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder that can actually lead to serious illness and even death.
Sweet Dreams and Gut Reactions combines my interest in the internal workings of the body, the clothing and bedding used to cover and protect it, skin – the external textural epidermis, and the magnetic polarity embodied in the hair that grows out of it: sensuous, but unsettling once removed from the body. It continues my exploration into emotional and physical sensations and extremes that evoke simultaneous oppositional responses. The garments all feature an internal body part that’s been impacted by ill health, rendering visible what is normally invisible until surgical intervention. In doing so, my wish is to demystify, inform and educate, as well as create a sense of wonderment and intrigue.
Ironically titled Sweet Dreams and Gut Reactions, at first glance the objects in this bedroom look curiously attractive, but on closer inspection, they evoke a sense of disquiet and discomfort. Rather than being protective and comforting, they could become unhinged anytime and uncover something unexpected in the viewer. What makes this work even more compelling is the embodiment of presence and absence. In this bedroom the physical body is absent, but evidence of the wearer/occupier is ever present. These works are a metaphor for what is unnerving and irritable in our lives and daily interactions that perhaps we could shed! Because Latin is a language commonly used in medical science, many of the titles are in Latin.
Included in Sweet Dreams and Gut Reactions was the now infamous Mo-Hair Suit that I was commissioned to create the bespoke hair textile for tailoring into the stunning 2-piece suit by POLITIX Menswear, for the 2021 Movember men’s health awareness campaign Worn To Be Heard. Also on show were a number of images from P J Kool – Dissecting Culture, Cancer and Cloth, also addressing medical and cultural issues.
Mixed Media: tulle, human and synthetic hair, cat hair, cotton and metalic thread, ambulance blanket, cotton sheeting, wire, hair colour spray, medical stoma bag, archival double sided tape, elastine swimwear, glass heads, Type C photograph; archival laser prints on banner vinyl, digital print on wall-paper, fake tattoo, metal ring, LED bulb, bed lamp, synthetic slippers, resin hair buttons
2022 – Tactile Arts Gallery, Darwin, NT Australia
All works/photos copyright The Artist 2012-2022; Mo-Hair Suit textile copyright The Artist 2021
“One of the most fascinating and original exhibitions I have seen. I couldn’t help thinking Frida Kahlo would love it.”
“An expression of pure joy and character and class. Your husband lives and breathes through your work. A celebration of life that will help so many.”
“Courageous, confronting, devastating… Beautifully presented. Will remain with me for a long time.”
“An exquisitely enlightening, engaging and very informative exhibition!”
“Very interesting, beautiful and disturbing/uncomfortable all at the same time.”
“It’s been totally eye opening and educational. I love how you have delved into taboo topics and put them out there with such care and beauty.”
“Beautiful and revelatory. A really interesting line of enquiry and it looks amazing.”
“A very stimulating exhibition and I love the good health cause, which it serves.”
“So many layers to uncover and think about!”
“Thank you for sharing your story and opening up conversations that people shy away from.”
“A deeply moving and eye opening exhibition! Pamela is wonderful at elaborating on the meaning behind each work.”
“I have never seen an exhibition like this – incredibly compelling. Thank you.”
“So wonderful, whimsical and moving in equal measure.”
“Very interesting. Something I haven’t thought much about, but has made me think today. It’s such a fascinating project.”
“The idea of socially repulsive material being used to create items of beauty and importance is so moving.”
“This is tremendous – delightful and disgusting! All that I’d hoped for.”
“Saw the suit on the news! Fascinating works with an important message. Was a little grossed out, but that’s the idea!”
“Fascinating exhibition; inspiring and incredible merging of health science and art!”
“Loved that the exhibition was designed to raise awareness of health issues.”