(April 29, 2022 - February 6, 2023)
Philadelphia ceramist Tia Santana is known for combining hair—both human and synthetic hair fibers—with clay. Santana started this series with the introduction of the 2019 CROWN Act and has said that the work “explores ethnic hair and its associations.” Throughout much of her ceramic practice, Santana uses the coil building technique whereby clay is hand rolled into long, thin, snake-like strips then wound in a circle, one on top of the other, to form the vessel.
Santana recalls her earliest memories of coils were moments that involved hair—twisting her own hair coils as a little girl, learning to twist and braid her mother’s and sister’s hair, watching her grandmother braid hair while telling stories of her great grandmother braiding hair. Santana also learned about African slaves who braided roadmaps to depict escape routes unbeknownst to their captors and how they braided rice seeds into their hair to sustain not only themselves but a part of their culture.
She has said that her current work is “reflective of my experience with identify…It is my vision to vocalize the narrative bias, prejudice, and lack of equity associated with race and ethnic traits.” Santana’s ceramic art functions as a metaphor about “conforming to Western beauty standards, specifically black hair and the subjected brutality to achieve idealistic constructs of beauty.” While at the same time, the containers “celebrate the twists, vibrant color, locs and coils of our hair, the ebony color in our skin,…the vessels preserve our identity, they embrace and retain our individual and shared narrative.”