Follicular: The Hair Stories of Sonya Clark

Exhibition highlights the artistry of African American hair craft; Live performance “Translations” to feature stylist reinterpreting historic African hairstyle on Clark’s head

ROANOKE, Va. (Aug. 15, 2016) – The Taubman Museum of Art is pleased to present Follicular: The Hair Stories of Sonya Clark, a major mid-career exhibition featuring the work of African-American multimedia artist Sonya Clark, Oct. 1, 2016-May 14, 2017. The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to see the intricate history of African American hair presented through objects and performances.

Throughout her career, Clark’s work has often featured hair and combs in the place of more traditional fibers and art-making materials. She uses them to speak meaningfully about cultural heritage, gender, beauty standards, race and identity. “Hairdressers are my heroes,” said Clark. “The poetry and politics of Black hair care specialists are central to my work. Rooted in a rich legacy, their hands embody an ability to map a head with a comb and manipulate the fiber we grow into complex form.”

Clark will discuss her work during an artist talk Friday, Oct. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum. The talk is free for members and $8 for the general public. Seating must be reserved by registering online at or by calling (540) 342-5760. Members-only advance guided tours will be offered Oct. 7 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the top of each hour. Walk-ins are welcome for the member tours.

Clark also will team with Kamala Bhagat, a well-respected African American hair stylist from Richmond, for the performance, “Translations,” in which they will reinterpret an historic African hairstyle on Clark’s head before a live audience, bringing historic African adornment traditions to current day. The performance is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1-3 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

“Through Clark’s new works and performances created for the Museum, her exhibition will explore hair as an indicator of race, social status, a symbol of age and authority, an object of beauty, and adornment,” noted Amy Moorefield, deputy director of exhibitions and collections, who curated the exhibition.

Clark holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Amherst College. Since 2006, Clark has been chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. Clark’s work has been exhibited in more than 300 museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and throughout the Americas. Her work is in the collection of many museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Memphis Brooks Museum. Clark has received several awards including a United States Artists Fellowship, the Pollock-Krasner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Italy, a Red Gate Residency in China, an 1858 Award for Contemporary Southern Art from the Gibbes Museum, the 2014 ArtPrize and the Juried Grand Prize co-winner, and a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.

Follicular: The Hair Stories of Sonya Clark will be on view in the Museum’s Contemporary Gallery. Exhibition and education support has been provided in part by the City of Roanoke through its Arts Commission.

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