• Hair7
  • Hair1
  • Hair2
  • Hair4
  • Hair5
  • Hair6
  • Hair3
  • Hm
Art

Jessica Wohl: Mountainaire Hotel

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Sometimes you come across images that provoke a visceral response – and so it is with Jessica Wohl’s Moutainaire Hotel. The Tennessee-based artist – who originally trained as an illustrator – created this fascinating hairy staircase in an abandoned hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, using (thank goodness) fake follicles. The power of the piece is almost overwhelming – I am compelled to look and then repulsed by what I see in a never-ending loop of response and reaction. We caught up with her to find out more.

Hi Jessica, tell us how did this project come about…

The Mountainaire Hotel is a striking example of Art Moderne architecture in Hot Springs, and truly is a structure that people are always curious about. Being abandoned for 20 years, Low Key Arts – a non profit arts organisation – initiated a two-day exhibition of installations in the empty hotel. I was fortunate enough to be one of the artists invited to participate.

What was the effect you wanted to achieve? Where did you get all the fake hair from? 

I’m interested in the secret lives of people and structures, and in this case, wanted my work to exemplify the life that was temporarily being brought into these abandoned buildings. My installation implies growth in this dead space, and if growth is implied, so too is life.

This life can be interpreted as some kind of spirit, and spirits in houses are always unsettling. So that’s the effect I was shooting for – something unsettling and beautiful that would make viewers consider the new energy being brought into the space.

I got the hair from the African American beauty supply. It’s filled with wigs and hair extensions – divine. I suppose the sadness I feel over not being able to pull off wearing any of this hair myself was finally put to rest.

What were the responses to it like?

Most people thought it was creepy. Many asked if it the hair was real, and they were curious about how I made it. Overall, I think they were surprised by it; as you came down the hall, you only see a small grouping of tendrils peeking out around the corner. Out of curiosity, they would approach it for a deeper investigation, and then seemed shocked that the hair cascaded down the entire staircase.

When did you realise you wanted to do more than just illustration?

I knew immediately after graduation from college that I wasn’t cut out for commercial work. I just wanted to make what I wanted, and didn’t want to be told what to do. When I found a way to use art as a form of expression, rather than as a way to illustrate someone else’s ideas, I was sold.

You’re based in the American South which obviously comes with strong cultural connotations – how, if at all, do these inform your work?

I’m going on my fifth year in the South, and in many ways am still processing what it means to live here. The part of this culture I am most fascinated by is the degree to which people manicure, compose and present themselves and their immediate environments.

I’m always trying to figure out what’s within, underneath and behind these facades, and this culture is prime real estate for my curiosities.

What’s next for you?

Blonde hair coming out of my fireplace, spilling out into my living room. And a large scale portrait project where I’m painting the invisible people (custodial staff) who maintain the university that I teach at.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Anniedescarteaux-collage-7home-int

    Annie Descôteaux’s work is confident, engaging and straight-forwardly slapstick. The Montreal-based artist works with installation, drawing and collage and has seen her work exhibited and discussed at conferences on colour theory. In equally impressive outings, it’s also appeared in Bloomberg and Pica magazines, among other publications. Annie’s collage work is well-balanced with clean lines, sharp colours and discreet humour; each piece littered with raw steak, fried eggs and shuttlecocks.

  2. Oliviervrancken-untitled-1-inthome

    Olivier Vrancken is a graphic designer and artist based in Holland. Painting and drawing his way through commissions and personal work, he is inspired by everything from primitive art to the great lyricists that are Black Sabbath. Olivier has exhibited all over Europe, his Cubist aesthetic and visual references laden with nods to cut-outs, still life, architecture and the human form. There’s a great colour palette to his work and some nice titles like Bad Hair Day and Wanderlust. Olivier’s work reminds me of the prints that appeared all over the T-shirts of the 1980s, in a good way.

  3. Menutnutnut-drawing-4-int

    Me nut nut nut was one of Jason Murphy’s daughter’s first utterances, and is now the name for his drawings of awkward stories of fear and incompetence. Inspired by the physical comedy of The Young Ones and The Ren & Stimpy Show, Jason’s drawings rely on comic intuition and references to real-life moments, like dropping a potato on his cat.

  4. Seamus_murhpy_pj-harvey_-recording-in-progress_-2015.-an-artangel-commission.-_1_int

    While we wait to take our turn to become a sort of strangely sanctioned voyeur as PJ Harvey records her ninth album, thinking about what’s ahead feels peculiar. Essentially, we’re going to see PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, a photographer and two engineers making an album in a Something & Son-designed box, formed of glass that allows visitors to see in, while the musicians can’t see out.

  5. Atelierbingo-list-int

    Up to the point when I opened Atelier Bingo’s new zine Wogoo Zoogi I’d never wondered what two aliens in heated conversation might look like. Having had a read I can now confirm that the answer is “they are speaking, singing very strangely, and they have a hair on their tongues." The newest bout of work from French illustration and surface design duo Adèle Favreau and Maxime Prou is a wonderful celebration of playful, dynamic, abstract art; blending shapes, colours and patterns in a glorious puddle of chaos thinly disguised as alien chat. In fact, it’s everything we’ve been led to expect from the pair, who we’ve dolloped praise on in the past.

  6. Faigahmed-carpets-list-2-int

    Faig Ahmed is an Azerbaijani artist doing remarkable things with carpets. He takes traditional Azerbaijani rugs – enormous, beautiful intricate creations – un-weaves them, and reconstructs them to create new patterns and shapes, subverting traditional usage of rugs as domestic objects to be walked all over, and rejuvenating them with optical illusions and techniques reminiscent of contemporary internet art. 

  7. Slavs_tatars-loveletters-home-int

    The work of Slavs & Tatars is awash with unlikely cultural references, balloons, archives and carpets. Identifying “the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” as the focus of their work, their projects are generous, engaging and genre-crossing. Starting as a reading group before shifting into making their own work, Slavs & Tatars have recently been working on a continuation of their Long Legged Linguistics project, a multi-faceted study of language as a source of emancipation. The somewhat secretive collective were kind enough to tell us more about this and their “bazaar” approach to making work.

  8. Davidbatchelor-october-13-int

    If you go down to the Whitechapel Gallery anytime between now and early April you’ll be sure to come across a huge breadth of work chronicling the adventures of the black square, from 1915 all the way up to the present day. It’s fairly monochromatic, as you might expect. Upstairs, however, things get drastically more colourful – especially once you come to David Batchelor’s specially “disrupted” issue of October, one of the most respected art journals out there, first published in 1976 and edited by esteemed writers Michel Foucault, Richard Foreman and Noël Burch.

  9. Alexdacorte-easternsport-1-int

    Perennial student artist Alex Da Corte has qualifications, residencies and awards coming up to his eyeballs having studied Film, Animation and Fine Arts at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Printmaking and Fine Arts at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and then a cheeky MFA in Sculpture at Yale. Busy guy!

  10. Duane_hanson_-_karma3

    Karma Books have just published a catalogue of Duane Hanson’s post-humous exhibition Flea Market Lady. Shown at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, Duane’s flea market ladies are taken from real-life characters and cast in bronze. An incredible feat of observation and skill, his work captures the character of his models and creates a very real atmosphere of flea-ing. Karma have kindly let us publish an extract from the imaginary conversation Maurizio Cattelan has with the artist in the foreword to the book:

  11. Hdl5_copy

    Hubert de Lartigue paints photo-realistic portraits that “serve the beauty” of his models, and his muse. He considers “emotion and soul” the most important part of a painting and spoke to us about his working process, inspiration and the impact of his muse, Octavie.

  12. Main_10.00.34

    If I won the lottery I’d open a gallery, and when I opened my gallery I’d totally rip off everything that David Kordansky Gallery does. From the big stuff like the very well-curated, cool list of artists they represent, to the impeccable printed matter they produce, to the matter of their easily navigable and well designed website – these guys are celebrating people’s work in the best way possible.

  13. List

    For all its simplicity – the limited use of colour, the seemingly straightforward shapes – there’s something about the work of Jens Wolf that’s undeniably intriguing and complex. Bringing to mind the likes of Josef Albers and Frank Stella, his abstract pieces set off their precise geometry with deliberate imperfections that add a human element to its formality. With his first London show opening in March, we had a chat with him about the creative process, the evolution of his work and why his London is forever foggy.