At seventeen, Iceland-born, New York-based artist Shoplifter encountered a small flower made of human hair while working at a Reykjavík antique shop. The hair of this Victorian memory flower, from the head of someone who had died long ago, moved the teenaged Hrafnhildur Arnardottir and ignited an obsessive study. Her art invokes themes of beauty, vanity and humor with the textures and colors of hair, both synthetic and human.
Vanity Disorder, now on view at Charles Bank Gallery, presents a continuation of Shoplifter’s hairy meditation. It includes bright sculptures and wall installations—some adorably fluffy, like the smilies; others beautifully braided; and at least one eerily frizzy, a cocooned skull. Many of her hair pieces “appear beautiful, evoking natural forms and plant life,” her website points out. “But at the same time, hair is considered grotesque and disturbing when it is not attached to the body, like hair in the shower drain.”
Her specialty has grown into several high-profile collaborations, like the one with fashion brand VPL or the one with Eli Sudbrack of Assume Vivid Astro Focus for their 2008 installation at the Museum of Modern Art. She often works with fellow Icelander Björk, who also happens to be presenting a brief Biophilia Live residency in New York this month.
Hrafnhildur Arnardottir (a.k.a. Shoplifter): Vanity Disorder remains on view through March 11 at Charles Bank Gallery. Her work was also in a recent group show titled Campaign at C24.