hair stories

Hair Stories chronicles hair growth after chemo through sequential photos and stories about hair. This project received a grant from the Mass. Cultural Council and has been exhibited at Simmons College, Wesleyan University, DeCordova Museum, University of the Arts and Capital Region Center for the Arts. My flipbook is now available on ETSY!

Hair Grid, archival inkjet prints DeCordova installation DeCordova installation DeCordova installation DeCordova installation Detail 1 Detail 2 Detail 3 Detail 4 Flip books Zilkha Gallery Zilkha Gallery

How does an artist respond to a body made unfamiliar and out of control? I produced Hair Stories after my 1998 cancer diagnosis. From the chaotic realm of illness and uncertainty, I produced a post-chemotherapy chronicle of hair growth through weekly photographs. The ordered structure of the installation, which takes the form of several horizontal timelines, challenges the disorder confronted. Not without humor, these life-size photographic self-portraits follow my progress from bald to haired. Using the ordered language of minimalism and scientific documentation, I examine the steady resumption of natural processes and the surprise of new hair growth. The photographs are made by scanning 35 mm negatives and digitally printing the images to control format and layout and to overlay an additional system of order, control and technology. This project began as a flipbook. Sequential hair images are combined with stories that explore hair in the context of private and pivotal moments in my personal history, including diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. This installation displays hair images with an accompanying narrative voiceover.

DECORDOVA MUSEUM wall text for Self Identity exhibition:

Karin Stack's project HAIR STORIES represents her recovery from breast cancer and the corresponding growth of hair on her head. Without revealing her face (or her true identity), she sequentially photographed the top of her head as her scalp progressed from baldness to a thick mane of hair, presenting the photographs in an extended horizontal line. Meant to represent each week of the year, there are fifty two images in HAIR STORIES (forty eight of those are exhibited here).

Hair has always been a key component in determining self-image. As Stack says: "I focused on hair -- I couldn't wait for it to come back. I didn't connect with the conventions of representing illness, the seriousness, the over-the-top emotions, particularly for women's cancers. I wanted to make images that were minimal, blank, spare, scientific, with deadpan humor." In addition to presenting the hair growth as a sequence of black and white digital prints, the artist also created a flipbook of the images, a format that she saw as further combating the seriousness of the subject. Her presentation is also accompanied by an audio component of herself telling personal anecdotes in which she reflects on how hair, of the lack of it, affects one's sense of identity.