This semester, people began giving hair to Cecilia Salama ’12. The visual arts concentrator – who previously went to barbershops to collect hair – has made good use of the donations in her current exhibition, “In My Absence: A Senior Visual Arts Thesis Exhibition,” that features work created this semester.
Salama’s pieces tend to skirt the traditional two-dimensional canvas to explore a more sculptural approach to painting. Hair, as well as other materials like sheep’s wool, air conditioning filters, metal and handmade white frames distinguish her work.
Hair is “a little bit revolting, but we all have it,” Salama said. The exhibition explores her fascination with the body, though Salama does not portray the full human figure.
Salama said she hopes the work will speak for itself in her absence. There is a “performative aspect” to her art, she said. She feels the pieces are “trying to confront” audience members.
Salama has trouble with language and has always been told she is too quiet, she said. “I have trouble finishing my sentences sometimes,” she said, laughing. The studio has provided a space for her to express her feelings, she said, adding, “I just feel so much better after” being in the studio.
Poetry has also helped Salama vocalize her feelings, she said. She uses poetry she has written to name her pieces. The poem that guides this exhibit, written this year, is about how she feels about “art in general,” she said.
Salama said Brown visual arts classes allowed her to experiment. As an honors student, she had her own studio to practice in.
“You always want to try new things,” she said. Salama has transitioned from liking “natural, fleshy colors,” produced using materials like soil, rubber, latex and coffee grounds, to using brighter colors. Her work has also become more contemporary, she said.
Salama said she relates to contemporary artists such as Gedi Sibony ’95, who makes minimal pieces. He often uses frames in his work, similarly to Salama, whose work includes empty wood frames, long pieces of wood that create a border outside the canvas.
“The way that I paint is quite similar to abstract expressionism – there’s a lot of energy,” Salama said. “I’ll scratch the canvas with my hands,” she added.
Salama has experienced conflict over what constitutes a painting, she said.
She employs unconventional materials and juxtaposes different elements, like a cast of her friend’s head alongside a canvas in its oversized frame. Her work is heavy – air conditioning filters painted with latex, pantyhose coated in resin and thick, hanging wool.
But working with resins and rubbers can be dangerous. To avoid dying early like one resin-enthusiast artist, Salama said, she uses a respirator and is careful about ventilation.
For Salama, her work is only complete after installing her shows. “Hopefully, I’ve put things together that people can get something out of,” she said.
“In My Absence” runs from April 6-13 in List 221.