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Release: April 9, 1999

La James students interpret art into avant-garde hairstyles at the UI Museum of Art

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kathleen Edwards, University of Iowa Museum of Art curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, was surprised and delighted when she found a display of mannequin heads dressed in elaborately styled wigs arranged in a semi-circle on the museum floor.

The display was the result of a La James College of Hairstyling course, "Interpretation of Art into Hair." The course, which is part of La James' advanced design curriculum, required its students to go to the UI Museum of Art, find a piece of artwork that moved them, and, after studying the artwork for its symmetry and color texture, interpret it into a hairstyle.

Working with wigs on mannequin heads, La James students had free rein with coloring and cutting the hair, and ornamenting it with a wide variety of objects, including hair extensions, ribbons, twigs, flowers, colored paper, cotton and angel wings.

Scott Allen, a La James instructor who has been affiliated with the college since 1989, created the course as a way to get his students to think more abstractly. He said, "Part of my job as an instructor is to get my students' creative juices flowing in order to help them delve deeper into their creative conscious and learn things that cannot be found readily in books or at hair shows."

While Allen admitted that some of the hairstyles weren't designed for normal street wear, he said that they were to be thought of more as avant-garde art.

"Most people have a preconceived notion of what hairstyling can be, based on what they've seen in magazines or in pictures hanging in hair salons," Allen said. "I want my students to be able to break down these conceptions. Hairstyling is really an art -- it's the art of sculpting heads."

Allen also participated in the course this semester. He interpreted Boris Lurie's work "Knives in Cement" into a hairstyle by stripping a wig of its color, dying it concrete gray, and then smoothing the wig's bangs over a mannequin's face. Finishing touches were put on the hairstyle by inserting knives into it.

Artwork that La James students interpreted into hairstyles can be found in some of the museum's current exhibitions: "Fallen Angels: Photographs by Karin Apollonia Muller," "The Drawing Speaks: Works by Theophile Bra," "Monumentality in Miniature" and "Boris Luire," as well as in the museum's permanent collection.

The La James College of Hairstyling is located at 227 East Market Street in Iowa City, and accepts customers by appointment and walk-in.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north of the museum.