This month’s issue of Vogue magazine features on article on body hair. Women’s body hair, more specifically. It’s an article that shines a bright light on changing norms. At some point in the not so distant past, (turns out it was post World War II), a new standard for beauty began to emerge. As soldiers returned home, women retreated to the privacy of their bathrooms with a razor in hand. Time drummed on. As a child, a hummed along to the advertising on my television: which molded my young mind.
“Who wears short shorts? WE wear short shorts!” But only if you’d used the appropriate hair removal cream.
Not so surprisingly, the backlash came. I recall in college when young women began growing out their armpit hair in solidarity against the patriarchy. Which brings us to the present climate of body hair removal: take it or leave it, according to this month’s Vogue, women are currently doing with their body hair whatever the hell they want. As it should be. I love changing norms.
As I perused the pages of the magazine, I was thrilled to find the article, because I found it rather pertinent to one of many thoughts that have been floating about in my head.
I’ve recently been researching Mary Magdalene. To make a long story short: several of the Mary’s mentioned in the New Testament (excluding the mother of Jesus), were methodically melded into one entity. It’s really not necessary to break down each of the several, that would take a long time and make for a rather dull blog. But, the point is that one Mary Magdalene who was the companion, friend, and disciple of Jesus, was reduced to a sinner often construed throughout history as a whore. Er...prostitute.
While this isn’t a blog about the actual existence of Mary (that’s a separate debate), what is real is that there are texts and images depicted based on Mary Magdalene.
In my research, I found countless images depicting Mary at the crucifixion of Christ, or reacting to the death of Christ. But, I was shocked to find an image from the Renaissance that depicted a Mary covered in what can only be described as body hair.
I soon realized that what I was seeing was a depiction of Mary of Egypt, yet another Mary who, through time had been melded with Mary Magdalene. Nevertheless, I found her, covered in hair. The story is that Mary of Egypt was a woman of insatiable passions. However, she had a change of heart, in her desperation and repentance, she wandered the desert. Her clothes become ragged, and to protect her modesty, her shame was covered by hair. I began to wonder, in earnest, what would that really look like?
I created garments in an attempt to depict this Mary, covered in hair or fur. I took photographs wearing the garments and created paintings.
Yet, my biggest task is before me. I found that my attempts to depict this appeared as what they are: someone wearing furry garments. I have to go bigger, try harder. So I will. My next task is to create something that looks like genuine body hair.
I’ve found a great resource for fur. A company called NFT (National Fiber Technology). Their website states: Helping Artisans Worldwide Create Hairy, Scary, Funny, Furry Icons. That couldn’t be more fitting for the task before me!
If you’re interested in learning more about this project, please check out a video I recently uploaded to YouTube. “Show and Tell”. You can see some samples of the fur I ordered. Click the link below!