Just in time for Mother's Day, an unusual meditation on maternity is on view at Miami's Hardcore Contemporary Art Space. Artist Kate Kretz uses human hair as well as found objects to explore the fragility, tenderness, and identity shifts of motherhood.
In "The Final Word," thousands of French knots create a lamb that's been hog-tied. A Victorian-style wreath of hair cushions an egg made from pristine white thread in "Decades of Dreaming of You...".
On a paper-thin antique child's shirt, the artist used hair collected from her own scalp while pregnant with her daughter to spell out "Your fragility in this sharp world is paralyzing," a work inspired by Kretz's own postpartum-induced agoraphobia.
In another piece, Kretz has created a 3-D human heart from embroidery that pops off the soft fabric canvas. It plays with an Elizabeth Stone quote that “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
The artist says she collected such hairs while running her hand over her head in the shower. Each embroidery takes about 3 months to complete and she goes through 3 or 4 hairs an hour as they often break.
But there's a reason she risks daily wrist pain to use strands from the human head. "Embroidering with hair possesses its own unique intensity: each barely perceptible stitch is like a rosary bead, marking a tiny but ardent prayer whispered over and over."
The work is so intricate, the artist fears some may overlook that she does all the elaborate handwork herself. "I am sure that half the people who see this work assume that I am sending it to China to be made."
But the tedious repetitive nature of the work soothes Kretz who believes that if she did not make art, she "would suffer from a more destructive addiction, or not be here at all."
She's often surprised her hair work repels some people. "When hair is detached from the head, it also tends to remind people of their own mortality, which most people do not want to think about."
For Kretz, there was nothing more extreme to experience than becoming a mother and she's irked that motherhood-themed work often gets overlooked.
"I find it amusing that art historians will talk about male artists and how they were influenced by travel to some foreign land, or political/social situations, but one of the most life-changing and powerful experiences of all is rarely discussed. It is a reflection of society’s devaluation of women’s experience in general."