Celebrating Black Women's Hair
At a time when controversy over black women’s hair is alive and well in America, Artist Maurice Evans is putting finishing touches on his ongoing series entitled, “Crowning.” His latest series of work is about how black women wear their hair. “A woman’s crowning glory is her hair.”
The series “Crowning” consists of various, single portraits of black women, either wearing head wraps or natural hair styles. Each portrait is titled with an African name and then Evans provides the literal meaning of the name, such as “Ayotunde” (Joy Has Arrived), and “Gugu” (A Precious Person). He intentionally gave African names to each portrait to convey the message, “This is where you come from,” and “She [black women] is everything.”
In creating “Crowning,” Evans turned to a technique called Scratchboard, which involves treating a wood surface with India ink, then you scratch out the image. “The use of India ink conveys her blackness,” said Evans. And on various portraits he uses paper with bright colors and bold designs for head wraps.
Evans uses the headdresses in some of his portraits to point to 18th and 19th century American history, when women of color turned to wearing head wraps because they were ordered to cover their hair in public. Apparently in the 1800s, particularly in Louisiana, black women were wearing their naturally high hairdo’s so beautifully with jewels and feathers, they provoked jealousy and threatened the social stability of the area. Because of this there were actual laws put in place banning black women from wearing their hair in public. The law was meant to distinguish women of color from white women and to minimize their beauty. In the end however, because they used elaborate designs and bold beautiful fabrics for their head wraps in covering their hair, they became even more beautiful and alluring.
For much of American history, black hair has been considered bad hair, and black women have felt pressure to straighten it to look presentable. During the 1960s and ‘70s having natural black hair was a political statement. And today, with abundant hair styles such as locks, braiding, and hair extensions, black women are often finding unwanted comments and adverse reactions to their hair. Evans’ response to all this, in creating the beautiful portraits in “Crowning,” is, “This is who you are,” and “The crown represents pride, beauty, social status, and so much more.” Evans uses the series as a counter balance to racism in his own way.
Evans has been an artist for as long as he can remember. His father was a drummer, and military man. When Evans was 4 years-old, one of his father’s band mates, who was also stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Valdosta GA, was teaching him how to play guitar. Meanwhile, his mother who was a favorite teacher at school, was displaying his artwork early on, using it for her school bulletin boards. “There wasn’t a time I wasn’t an artist,” explained Evans.
As far as his drawing goes, Evans remembers being especially inspired as a kid while living at Moody Air Force Base. He recalls seeing his play friends’ drawings of aircraft carriers, “They drew stick men for people in their drawings below the carriers, but I still thought they were cool.”
Evans studied at The Art Institute of Atlanta from 1986-1988, and is known as a painter, but he also has a degree in Fashion Illustration, and plays and produces music. As a mixed media artist, black issues and visuals have always been very important to him. “Black women in particular are constantly bombarded with imagery that tells them they are not beautiful or worthy,” said Evans. Further, he feels black women need more attention in order to begin healing.
Evans presents his artwork privately through appointment, either at his studio in Lawrenceville GA, or he will bring pieces to prospective buyers for viewing. Publicaly, he shows his original pieces at art shows throughout the country, or you can visit his website, mauriceevans.com to view his collections. If you can’t afford purchasing one of Evans’ original pieces from the series “Crowning,” he also has made available for purchase,somerset canvas reproductions and high quality digital prints that can be purchased online.
You can also view the series “Crowning,” by visiting his Facebook page, The Art of Maurice Evans. Original pieces can be purchased online by clicking on the provided links on the Facebook page.