I am More Than My Hair, a collection of twenty, three-dimensional tactile portraits by creator Alyscia Cunningham will be exhibited at Sandy Spring Museum. The exhibit, which is accessible to visitors with hearing and vision loss, asks the viewer to reconsider his or her idea of feminine beauty and adornment.
About the Exhibit
I Am More Than My Hair began with Alyscia Cunningham’s eponymous book and film in which she advances the dialogue around the beauty standard of female baldness and captures the stories of girls and women who have lost their hair due to medical conditions or by choice. “If you look towards the media to define what’s beautiful, baldness is not a look that is considered attractive,” says Ms. Cunningham. She notes that from the time girls are young, they are pressured into set beauty standards, with a high value placed on hair. Through this project, Ms. Cunningham hopes to change the way people view beauty, female hair loss, and baldness.
“Every woman, young and old, needs to know that she is naturally beautiful. Stop allowing society to dictate our beauty.”
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The exhibit further breaks barriers of accessibility through its use of lithophanes, raised reliefs that interact with light, to create both a unique visual and tactile experience. The issue of accessibility became of paramount importance to Ms. Cunningham after attending a meeting of the National Federation of the Blind last year. “It was shocking to learn about the lack of accessibility in the arts and how blind and low vision audiences aren’t considered. I left the meeting feeling inspired enough to make it mandatory that any venue, gallery, or museum that requests my work, must agree that it will be made accessible for audiences with low vision and hearing.” Braille text panels and audio descriptions will also accompany the works.
From March 19 – May 28 a collection of handcrafted hats by artist and milliner Anthony Gaskins will also be on exhibit. Mr. Gaskins is the creator of “Caps for Chemo,” an idea he developed after losing his parents, sister, and mentor to cancer. Through Caps for Chemo, he counsels cancer patients and runs hat-making workshops. “Words can’t describe how it feels to give someone fighting cancer a hat,” he explained. “To put them in something that totally transforms their mindset and how they feel about the sickness that they have and that they are fighting.” Mr. Gaskins sees his life’s mission as helping those fighting cancer. His hats showcase one way cancer patients can recapture confidence after experiencing the hair loss that often accompanies chemotherapy.
About The Artists
Based in Silver Spring, Maryland, Alyscia Cunningham is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, filmmaker, and photographer who contributes to National Geographic, Discovery Channel, America Online and the Smithsonian Institution. Her work focuses on changing the dialogue around beauty standards for women through documentary film and unaltered photography. After the success of her first book, Feminine Transitions: A Photography Celebration of Natural Beauty, she continued to inspire social change with her new book and documentary film, I Am More Than My Hair.
Anthony Gaskins is a milliner by trade. He designs, creates, buys and sells hats. For decades he has run his own business, serving a broad and diverse clientele. He teaches – formally and informally – about the history and culture surrounding hats.
Virtual Exhibit Programs Art and Accessibility
How do we make art accessible? Exhibiting artist Alyscia Cunningham confronts this question in her innovative exhibition, I Am More Than My Hair. Join her in a virtual walkthrough of her ongoing show followed by a panel discussion with art and accessibility experts Becky Emmert, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Cheryl Green, Julie Hein, Marguerite Woods, and Robin Lynne Marquis who are working to change the way we experience art.
A virtual screening of Alyscia Cunningham’s film I Am More Than My Hair, telling the stories of women who have lost their hair and exploring the meaning of beauty. The screening will be followed by a virtual discussion with Ms. Cunningham.
About Sandy Spring Museum
Sandy Spring Museum supports community-driven cultural arts and educational programs. We gather community to build a sense of place and belonging. Sandy Spring Museum is located at 17901 Bentley Road, Sandy Spring, MD 20860. The museum is wheelchair accessible. General admission is free. For more information, visit www.sandyspringmuseum.org/morethan.