Maurice Evans Celebrates Black Women's Hair in His Series "Crowning"
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 Crowning series consists of various single portraits of black women, either wearing head wraps or natural hairstyles. Each portrait is titled with an African name accompanied by its literal meaning. Examples include “Ayotunde” (Joy Has Arrived), and “Gugu” (A Precious Person). He intentionally gave African names to each portrait to convey the messages “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 wooden surface with India ink, then scratching out the image. “The use of India ink conveys her blackness,” said Evans. On various portraits, he used paper with bright colors and bold designs for headwraps.
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 headwraps because they were ordered to cover their hair in public. Apparently, in the 1800s, particularly in Louisiana, black women were wearing their naturally high hairdos 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 when 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 hairstyles such as locks, braiding, and hair extensions, black women often encounter 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 counterbalance 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 four years old, one of his father’s bandmates, who was also stationed at Moody Air Force Base in 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 and 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 at the homes of prospective buyers. Publicly, he shows his original pieces at art shows throughout the country. You can visit his website, mauriceevans.com, to view his collections. If you can’t afford to purchase 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 Crowning series 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.