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(Photo from Angry Hair Series)
Mallory Michelle Dover is a Kentucky-based artist who addresses themes ranging from black women's relationships with their hair to domestic violence with vibrant color and texture. Dover, who is currently an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Kentucky, says her work "is rooted in cultural acceptance, perceptions and identity. " Mallory has literally created her own universe, a language of elaborate shapes and symbols that are both eye-catching and thought-provoking. When she isn't teaching, Dover spends just about every waking moment hard at work in her studio, as she gears up for her M.F.A. Thesis exhibition, Strange Malaise, on April 2nd.
What was the inspiration behind your most recent body of work, The Angry Hair Series? What did you discover in the process of making and exhibiting this work?
My inspiration behind The Angry Hair Series came from personal experiences with relaxed and natural hair, along with the experiences of other women of African decent. At age 21, after 14 years of relaxing my naturally thick, curly hair, I cut it all off and began wearing it natural. I was angry with all the women in my life that encouraged relaxed hair and discouraged natural hair. After awhile, I realized that even with my hair in its natural state, I felt that similar need to always do something to it. In the Angry Hair Series, I include women with natural and relaxed hair. I also include expressions that don't look so angry at all to comment on how we often mask our true emotions because of social constructs.
While making and exhibiting this work, I discovered that the issue of Black hair is multi-layered. When older women see these paintings (i.e. my Gramma), there is a completely different discussion that occurs than when people in younger generations view them. With them, there is a stance that has been taking against natural hair that runs deeper than vanity, it is a means of protection. With these works, I leave traces of my actual thought process because of my desire to get people to talk about what is actually driving the need to permanently alter the natural state of their hair.
Check out more at Black Butterfly: Arts & Culture from Brooklyn to the Bay and Beyond