Art lovers in the Kent community can now explore all things related to Black hair, thanks to the Kent State University Museum’s new exhibition “TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair.” The exhibition’s debut follows a four-year journey of research and curation. I caught up with the exhibition’s co-curators, professors Tameka Ellington Ph.D. and Joseph Underwood Ph.D., to talk about what visitors could expect from the exhibit.
What inspired you to research and curate the exhibit?
Tameka Ellington: “I’ve been doing research on black hair now since 2002. I’ve published several articles in faculty essays, and it’s just been work that I’ve been drawn towards because of my experience as a Black woman and all the things that I know I’ve gone through.”
I wanted to find out why this society has such disdain towards Black hair. After several years of that, I decided that I wanted to do an exhibition. What that was going to look like, I didn’t quite know. In 2017, I met Dr. Underwood and thought he was going to be the perfect partner to do this project with me. So we’ve been at it ever since the first day we met.”
What was the curation process like?
Joseph Underwood: “It starts with making a proposal to the museum saying like, here’s the show, here’s what we’re envisioning. Then you actually go around and you look at museums, artists, studios, Instagram, talk to friends of friends and try to see what pieces might be interesting for your story.”
Then, it’s a year-long process of negotiating with every artist and gallery. Then, the last year or so of an exhibition is just the logistics of getting the shipping organized, getting everything here, making sure it’s not in another exhibition at the same time. So, curation ends with laying it out in the gallery, making sure that objects are next to each other in a certain way to tell a certain story. And that’s how we came up with our three themes of the exhibition.”
TA: “Also, it was important for us to have pieces in the show that were not just fine arts, but that also [were] representative of black culture.”
What do you hope viewers take away from visiting the exhibition?
TA: “The biggest part for me was just like wanting people to see the human-ness of black hair. I want to be able to say that I contributed to the deconstruction of discrimination.”
JU: “The exhibition will say different things to different people based on their experience. While I don’t have lived experience, I think viewers will see themselves up on the wall, they’ll see their stories or their frustrations or their joys. Then, other people will just be learning for the first time. Or there’ll be white parents of adopted kids who know about some of this already, but [they will begin to see black hair through a different perspective].”
Devan ShimoyamaElijah, 2020Oil, color pencil, jewelry, glitter, enamel, feathers, and rhinestones on canvas stretched over panel40 x 30 in.
The TEXTURES exhibition is showing through Aug. 7, 2022, at the KSU Museum located at 515 Hilltop Drive. Tickets can be purchased in person at the museum or in advance through the museum’s online ticketing service. The Kent State University Museum is requiring everyone to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status.
Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children ages 5 to 17. The museum is free for children under 5 and for those with a Kent State ID. Sunday admission is free for all ages. Parking is free for all museum attendees.
Patrons should use the allotted museum parking spaces in the Rockwell Hall parking lot. For more information, please call 330-672-3450 or visit www.kent.edu/museum.