• 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. Samchirnside-int-list

    I don’t know what it is about seeing colours up close that’s so mesmerising, but Sam Chirnside is all over it. The Melbourne and New York-based artist works predominantly with oil paints to create strangely beautiful distortions, which work best when overlaid with a band logo to create album artwork, or cut out in geometric shapes. His works resemble planetary compositions straight out of a senior school physics textbook or a happy spillage in an art classroom, and we can’t get enough of them.

  2. Jacksmith-npg-int-list

    For the first time ever a show at the National Portrait Gallery in London contains no human faces. Jack Smith: Abstract Portraits which opened late last week is the first exhibition in the gallery’s 159-year history that includes no figurative portraits as Smith’s work is made up of abstract shapes and colours. Of course there’s nothing new about the idea of a portrait being something other than a traditional head and shoulders painting, but it is noteworthy that one of London’s leading galleries should take such a decisive step.

  3. Benjamin-dittrich-int-list

    German graphic artist Benjamin Dittrich is principally concerned with scale at both a micro and macro level. He preoccupies himself with subjects as large as the cosmos and as minute as molecular structures, zooming in and out in his textural works to reveal vast and complex systems. His retro-futuristic work is breathtakingly complex, utilising painted and printed layers to launch you though time and space. He’s got a new show opening at Spinnerei Archiv Massiv tonight in Leipzig, which if you’re based nearby we’d urge you to get down to. Utterly beautiful stuff!

  4. Chyrumlambert-port-2-int_copy

    Los Angeles-based artist Chyrum Lambert uses formal constraints like grid systems and scalpel blades to contain and compose his paintings made up of cut-and-paste figures, patterns and abstract narratives.

  5. Blamey-ct-6-int

    David Blamey, the artist who founded publisher Open Editions, has authored the first release from Continuous Tone, a series of sound works that treat the medium as a viable space for the production of art.

  6. Nathalie-due-pasquier-int-list-3

    Nathalie Du Pasquier is a figure who seems to leave a trail of intrigue behind her everywhere she goes. This is largely because, as a founding member of the Memphis group (an Italian design and architecture group founded in Milan in 1981) she’s been an unstoppable force in shaping the design world as we know it, colours, angles, ideas and all. But it’s also partly because her work is just so much fun.

  7. Escape-to-destiny-1mehdi-ghadyanloo-int-list

    Merging the style of the early 20th Century surrealists with contemporary street art, Tehran-based artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s work is strange and beguiling. He’s currently in London, busying himself with the mammoth task of creating murals all around the capital, including one measuring a whopping 3.4km. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also showing at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London, in an exhibition entitled Perception.

  8. List

    Highbrow folk like us often find the traditional emoticon can struggle to express how we really feel. We don’t ALWAYS want to convey that we’re blindly happy, crying with laughter or horizontally-lipped and nonplussed. Sometimes, we need something a little more creative. Thank the lord, then, that Hyo Hong has come up with just the solution, in the form of the multifaceted (in its truest sense) Cindy Sherman-icon.

  9. Art-belikov-int-list

    I can’t tell you a whole lot about Lithuanian artist Art Belikov other than he’s 24 years old and, er, Lithuanian. And that all his images are fantastical digital creations. But in spite of the lack of background information currently available to me I’d just like to say that his work is extraordinary. He’s a maker of 3D rendered images depicting scenes borrowed from late 90s sci-fi; all “vintage” cell phones and games consoles, cans of mysterious energy drinks and designer bottled water. There’s a 666 in his URL too so you can be sure he’s a cool guy! When we finally track the man down we’ll ask him some questions about what it all means, but for now just drink in the eerie beauty of his digital creations.

  10. Jessica-brilli-int-17

    If when you close your eyes at night you dream of tying a silk kerchief over your carefully curled ’do and hopping in a classic Chevy to sail down the West Coast, you might find yourself as enamoured as I do with the work of painter Jessica Brilli. She favours endless-seeming roads and vintage cars for her expressive oil paintings, and she’s got recreating them on canvas down to a fine art. Her landscapes are dream-like in their expansiveness and colour palette, while her portraits seems to hark back to an era when a Chevy was still commonplace and kerchiefs were still pretty cool. And a little picturesque fantasy never hurt anybody, eh?

  11. London-is-changing-intlist

    Public art project London is Changing makes Londoners uncomfortably aware of the truths we’re perhaps trying to ignore: that our city is morphing beyond recognition, that creativity is at risk, and that for many people, it’s simply becoming unaffordable.

  12. Bensanders-potdealer-3-int_copy

    While keeping himself busy with postmodern Howard Hodgkin-esque painting and collage work, Ben Sanders is somehow finding the time to paint funny faces on ceramics. Cutting through the “worthy lifestyle” pottery trend with googly eyes, zigzag nostrils and creepy grins, Ben has stamped his sense of humour and aesthetic all over these thriving succulents’ homes.

  13. Olafur-eliasson_little-sun-int-1

    A “giddy joy” was described as the feeling evoked by the artwork of Olafur Eliasson when we interviewed him for last year’s Autumn edition of Printed Pages, and with his monumental, often participatory pieces, it’s not hard to see why. From his incredible 2003 Weather Project at Tate Modern to its portable, socially-conscious, tiny counterpart Little Sun(which “produces clean, affordable, and portable solar-powered lamps to areas of the world without reliable access to electricity”), his work is a glorious, utterly original ray of light shining on the sometimes impenetrable art world.