• 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. List

    Way back in 2011 when we first posted the work of Frank Magnotta It’s Nice That was a very different beast – we’d only give you one image to check out and the rest was up to you. So when I stumbled across Frank’s work again this week it seemed essential that we show you a whole lot more. To be honest there have been few updates to his site in the past three years but the work is breathtaking, pulling together pop culture references, architectural precision and some serious Americana and combining it into stark surrealist landscapes. At times grotesque but always engaging, Frank’s graphite artworks are still some of the finest around.

  2. List

    Jean Jullien is many things. Artist. Illustrator. French. Recent emigre to New York. It’s Nice That favourite. So hot right now. He’s also the final artist to have a show at Kemistry Gallery’s current east London home before it closes its doors early next year (although as has been reported it has some excitingly ambitious plans).

  3. List

    American artist James Rieck paints models, but not in the way you might expect. In his huge colourful canvases he takes figures from adverts and recreates them four or five feet wide, capturing their clothes, their postures but not their faces.

  4. List

    These painted scenes from Paige Jiyoung Moon are so wonderfully intricate, a new detail pops out each time you see them. Capturing domestic scenes like people drinking coffee, friends watching a film or a family eating lunch together, it’s the mundanity of what Paige paints that makes her miniature worlds so inviting as the viewer tries to pick out some sort of irregularity.

  5. List

    It’s been a whole two years since we last posted about the marvellous work of Lynnie Zulu and we’re happy to have the illustrator’s vibrant world colouring our dull Monday once again. Her latest body of work is on show now at No Walls Gallery in Brighton and is a fantastically lively exploration of the female in all her glorious forms.

  6. List-tatiana-bruni_-the-drunkard_-costume-design-for-%e2%80%98the-bolt%e2%80%99_-1931_-courtesy-grad-and-st-petersburg-museum-of-theatre-and-music

    We’re no ballet aficionados, but we wouldn’t usually associate drunkards, typists and factory workers with the grace and poise of the discipline. However, as these beautiful gouache painting by Tatiana Bruni show, there’s much more to ballet than tutus and swan lake, with her angular figures, bold colours and sometimes grotesquely postured characters. The paintings show costume designs for Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1931 ballet The Bolt, and are going on show at London’s Gallery for Russian Arts and Design alongside a series of period photographs. The ballet itself was bold and striking in its use of real hammers, machine-inspired choreography, aerobics and acrobatics, and the costume images are equally as dynamic, inspired by “the aesthetics of agit-theatre and artist-designed propaganda posters”, according to the gallery. The sense of movement is palpable, whether in the graceful billowing dresses or the staggering legs of our brightly-coloured drunkard, working against the geometric rigidity of the style to beautiful effect.

  7. List

    The announcement that David Lynch is to release new episodes of Twin Peaks in 2016 was, unsurprisingly, met with internet-breaking levels of excitement. Soon, every Tommy, Dale and Henry Spencer was walking around their independent coffee shop knowingly harping on about their “damn fine cup of coffee” and popping that heartbreaking Angelo Badalamenti theme on the office stereo like they’d actually watched every episode back in 1990, when they were five.

  8. List-studio9

    Not since we saw the Doge meme IRL on a street in Hackney have we been this excited by the face of a strange dog. Now, we’re excited by many strange dog faces, thanks to what looks set to be a brilliant show by Wilfrid Wood. Wilfrid’s work has long been a favourite at It’s Nice That, and has over the years included sculptures of Tom Daley and Paul McCartney and numerous bottoms for Levis.

  9. List-31_wl-work-01

    Man of many talents Will Edmonds has some great new work on his site in the geometric shape of these colourful framed pieces and paintings on wood. There’s a childlike simplicity against a more grown-up restraint in the works, which draw you in with colour and keep you there with the deceptively intricate layers. The works were created for an exhibition entitled A Watery Line at The Tetley in Leeds in summer 2014, where he was also showing sculptures and ceramics.

  10. List

    London is a brilliant city, but in the winter months it can be a grey and grizzly place to live. That’s why artists like Steve Wheen, aka The Pothole Gardner, are so important in bringing a little colour and joy to our day-to-day lives. To promote Uniqlo’s new HEATTECH range, which has been specially developed with leading textile manufacturer Toray, the clothing brand is showcasing creative types who take on the urban outdoors come rain or shine, from foodies and cyclists to graffiti artists.

  11. List

    I can’t quite believe that it’s two years since we last featured Alex Roulette’s work on the site because he’s undoubtedly one of our favourite artists working today. The New York based painter creates scenes which “explore the blurred sense of time and place within memories” and he’s a master of the atmospheric. Looking at his paintings feels like beginning a dream when you’re pitched into a situation conjured up by your subconscious and yet instinctively know broadly where you are and what’s going on.

  12. List-2

    I’m sticking by my claim that the beach is one of the most fascinatingly liminal places going; you arrive, you take off (almost) all your clothes and you lie down, play volleyball and splash next to strangers with the same idea, and nobody thinks anything of it.

  13. List

    These painted shapes from Berlin-based Frau Grau are just wonderful with their rich, vivid tones and excellent composition. I really like the organic and uneven shapes, with each one refusing to tesselate neatly with its neighbour. The formation and assembly works fantastically, laid out like a detailed study of jewel-like pebbles and rocks found on an imagined coastline. It’s this ambiguity about what the artist is actually depicting that interests me so much.