|Photograph of Steve Raspa by Dave Mead.|
Thanks to Lin Tan for this great article about our upcoming exhibition Beardo which featured in this weeks Beat Magazine!
Beardo's For The Weirdo's
Welcome to the curious and ever-fascinating world of beards and the people who grow them. Some, like Hans Langseth who died in 1927, decided to grow his beard to a world-record length of 17 and a half feet. Others, like Steven Raspa, decided to trademark his magnificent chin mane – a dreadlock-esque, over-shoulder beard beautified with a single flower at its tip.
Beardo - so rightly named - is Town Hall Gallery’s latest exhibition on all things related to the beard. The showcase blends work from the gallery’s permanent art collection as well as work from contemporary artists and includes painting, textiles, photography and installations.
“I noticed that we have a lot of historical paintings and photographs of these men sporting really fantastic beards and great facial hair,” says Mardi Nowak, curator of Beardo. “They’re the kind of things that rarely get shown other than in historical contexts, and I sort of thought it would be really great as a way of getting them out there.”
Maybe it’s the fact that her husband sports a beard – maybe not – but over the last two years, Nowak began noticing the ubiquitous presence of facial hair not just on the streets, but in the work of many contemporary artists. “Personally I think there’s a bit of a backlash in terms of the whole metrosexual man,” says Nowak of the recent resurgence of beardage acceptance. “But I also think women have kind of gotten a bit over it as well and enjoying having their men look like men.”
Whilst there’s undoubtedly a certain playfulness to the exhibition, Beardo is also an engaging look into the symbolism behind the beard. With a juxtaposition of historical and contemporary works, we see facial hair in the light of folklore and tradition, as well as a conceptual exploration of beards as a symbol of sexuality and manliness. Furthermore, the act of growing a beard and styling it also suggests a sense of vanity, masked under the macho veil of masculinity.
American photographer, Dave Mead will be exhibiting six photographs he took while documenting the 2009 World Championship Beard and Moustache Competition. ““I wanted Dave’s photos because these were real people who are really passionate about the way that they look, and the kind of way they express themselves is through their beards,” says Nowak. “It’s a part of who you want the world to think you are and see you, and represent yourself.”
Aside from Mead, other local artists have created interesting, outside-the-box new works themed on beards. Fashion designing duo, Shannon O’Shea and Beni Dawe of Best Fiend bring a playful, popular culture twist to the theme in the form of ‘pants beard’, which, to put it tersely, are knickers with beards on them.
More specifically, “They have actually produced a series of underwear that highlights iconic social-thinking people who had facial hair onto the underwear,” says Nowak. Included in their installation are the bearded images of the likes of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx titled Pink Freud and Marx and Spencer, respectively.
The beard, often a symbol of wisdom and intellect, is interpreted in an entertaining and refreshing way. “They’ve actually collaborated with some great photographers and created these fashion shoots, but they are a kind of play where these girls have these really weird underwear with men’s faces with beards on them.” Best Fiend’s installation will include photographs as well as the actual pants beards.
Interestingly, female artists have also expressed an interest in contributing to the exhibition, bringing to Beardo what they’ve coined as ‘the lady beard’, “which are comments about the pubic and nether region ‘lady beards’, and how in different societies, women are on that kind of crazy Brazillian waxing. So, comments on the opposite of how men are growing these beards and how women are ‘hairing’ themselves.”
Bridging the feminine and masculine divide of facial hair is tapestry artist, Dan Edwards whose work has often centred on beards. “They’re beautiful tapestries that have this real ‘70s edge to them that involves really beautiful pattern making,” explains Noward. “It’s that kind of cross between really masculine and feminine in terms of the material.”
With a wealth of different interpretations of beards, Beardo is sure to spark some interesting conversations between the works presented. “One of the other groups of artists talks about the beard being very disposable. She says that it is utterly defining but in a minute or two, it can be shaved off and reveals the person underneath as well,” says Nowak. “They are very defining for people, and we definitely have a generation of younger men that are embracing the beard.”
Beardo features the work of Dave Mead, Dan Edwards, BESTFIEND, Josh Rufford, Rebecca Van Der Werff, Christie Torrington, Lura Smith & Zoe Steers and Katie Jacobs and Brittany Veitch. The exhibition opens on Wednesday November 24 until Saturday December 18. You can also take part in two special public programs – In Conversation with the curator and Beardo artists on Saturday November 27 at 2pm and a beard-making workshop on Sunday December 5 from 10.30am-3pm. They’re both free.
By LIN TAN