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Munson Steed shows ‘Shero Circles’ at ‘HAIRarchy’ art exhibition

Hair is a defining element of Black culture, and Black History Month is the perfect time to explore the evolution of its roots. Rolling out founder and publisher Munson Steed unveiled his artistic ode to our heritage with his open edition print, “Shero Circles,” at “HAIRarchy: A Celebration of the Black Hair Experience.”

Curated by Asia Hamilton, the exhibit opened Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, at the Norwest Gallery of Art in Detroit. The exhibition’s theme explores the black hair experience, highlighting the importance of African American hair trends, culture and heritage. The event also commemorated the second-year anniversary for NGA.

“HAIRarchy” features works by: Hamilton, Steed, Sabrina Nelson, Khleo Morris, Lebohang Motaung, Deja Milany, Stacie Monday, Franchesca Lamarre, Megan White, April Shipp, Errin Whitaker, Bre’ann White, Cannaday Chapman, Lia Zamor, and Nicole Grant. Each artist’s work offers a layered story about the integral role hair plays in our culture. Mediums ranged from paint and digital photography to textiles such as synthetic hair.

Steed’s “Shero Circles” is part of his 24/7 series titled Images of Us.  “All of our women are sheroes,” Steed said. “It’s a tribute to their honor; her hair is gold and has all the colors, but it’s less stereotypical,” he added. Several attendees bought copies of Steed’s piece and his inspirational children’s book, Little Professor Skye: Favorite Things.

For Hamilton, styling her hair has been a journey, which is illustrated through her two vinyl pieces “Poppin” and “Loving My Long Lux Hair.”

“I had my hair locked for 20 years and once I cut my locks off, I was able to be more versatile, so this imagery speaks to that. It’s a whole different life and I’m learning that if you’re gonna have a wig, you gotta have the glue — there are tools [for] that. So in the images, they’re using tools, be it a hairbrush or something for their edges, it’s all a part of our culture,” explained Hamilton, whose father owned a beauty salon when she was growing up.

Shipp’s soft sculpture, “Endangered Species” speaks to the historic and present-day trials and triumphs of Black women. “We are replicated, imitated, degraded and never appreciated. We are the only people who have laws governing our hair,” she said.

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Nelson — who is a long-standing and revered member of Detroit’s art community — was featured in the exhibit along with one of her former students, Lia Zamor. She made sure to FaceTime Zamor, who was unable to attend in person. Nelson humbly noted how her past protégés inspire her. “The interesting thing is because I’ve been in this community for a long time, they also teach me. Some of the best teachers are those who can also learn from their students,” she said.

“HAIRarchy: A Celebration of the Black Hair Experience” is on display at the Norwest Gallery of Art, now through Feb. 29.