From the prism to the curl, this exhibit showcases work by recent graduates of Winthrop University. Kai’s vivid colors strike the eye while sharp lines bring a calm repetition. Jewel’s varied visuals and rich textures draw you into the deeper meaning behind the pieces.
The work Beauty and Audacity functions to embrace and normalize Black natural hair. The series combines photography, fiber arts, screenprinting, and painting while exploring the influence of European beauty standards on self-identity. Inspired by hair catalogs and magazine advertisements, the portraiture celebrates the versatility of Black hair as an art form. The series involves three 46” x 32” mixed media wall hangings. This work consists of self-portraits depicting different hairstyles exploring themes of self-identity and its relation to Black identity and womanhood. In the self portraits, I am reclaiming the gallery space by having the audacity to be myself. The phrase “good hair” is associated with the words clean, straight, and professional which is seen as the contrary to Black hair. By reclaiming the phrase “good hair” to include kinky textured hair, the power is shifted from the proximity of whiteness to black is beautiful.
Dissatisfied with the lack of Black representation in the art history canon, I challenge this by revisioning ornate European motifs and the traditional frame. I achieve this by using natural hair elements such as braids. The fabric borders serve as a protective barrier of love and comfort provided by self, family, and ancestral connections. Following the path of artist Faith Ringgold, my inspiration is rooted in showcasing a positive representation of Black women and bringing Black stories into contemporary art spaces. By acknowledging the cultural importance of Black hair and its implication on beauty standards, I share the beauty of naturally textured hair.
ARTIST BIO Jewel Edwards is a public school art teacher and visual artist based in Greenville, SC. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina and is an alumna from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, SC. As an interdisciplinary artist, Edwards uses photography, video, screenprinting, and painting to explore her self-identity and its relation to Black identity and womanhood. She has exhibited at Lyndon House Arts Center and several times in the Rutledge and Lewandowski Gallery at Winthrop University. Throughout her time at Winthrop University, Edwards has received several awards including 1st and 3rd place at Winthrop’s Undergraduate Juried Exhibition.
Of the numerous works within my Tensions series, Tensions 2.2 (black, smoke gray) holds the most visual and allegorical of stories. The work is all about “sevens”: I was seven years sober, ending a seven year relationship, and took the serenity prayer and translated it into the seven most spoken languages of the world. I created a pattern with the repeated prayer in its seven varying prose, laser etching this pattern onto both the front and back of the black acrylic shards in the work. The beautiful script, created in English, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Bengali, lends delicacy to the bold, graphic piece and provides a visual recount to its creation.
ARTIST BIO For over twenty years, Kai Griffin (b. 1981) has proven to be a creative, innovative, and intensely trained professional, specializing in trendsetting beauty, fitness, and wellness. Applying those same principles and experiences, Kai developed his spark for creating art; art with convergent points where classical theory meets modern work, where analog meets digital, where handcrafted meets laser cut. Kai holds a BFA from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Winthrop University and resides in Charlotte, NC.