The Trentonian's Strange But True Page

Sunday, August 19, 2007

420 pounds of human hair make up art installation

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) -- The massive banner in Dartmouth College's Baker-Berry Library runs the length of the vast foyer, bright green lettering stretching from end to end.
But the gut reactions that artist Wenda Gu's latest installation provokes aren't because of its size, but its contents: 420 pounds of human hair. A viewer's first impulses are to lean forward and scrutinize the swirling, flattened locks; stealthily sniff (it doesn't smell); and fight the urge to touch it - and perhaps quickly recoil. Viewer reactions fall into two camps: the freaked out and the fascinated.
Hair for the 80-foot-by-13-foot banner was collected over several months last year from 42,000 haircuts of Dartmouth students, faculty, staff and local residents in Hanover. It was shipped to China, where workers in Gu's Shanghai studio dyed and shaped the locks into paper-thin panels held together by a film of Elmer's glue and tied together with twine. It and a second work, "united nations: united colors," displayed in another part of the library are the latest installations in Gu's worldwide "united nations" project, begun in 1993 and all made from human hair.


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