Intuition: Hairstylists with Creative Souls

Anyone who’s had a great haircut knows that the best hair stylists are, in fact, artists. They’re sculptors whose medium is hair.

The current exhibit Intuition at Art Square Gallery and Café shows that hair — in its own right — can be sculpture. It’s the brainchild of hair stylists Erika Fung and Arisa Yamasaki and wearable art designer Shirley (Xue) Liang.

Every sculpture in this show features human hair, synthetic hair or extensions. Some hair was donated by friends. A lot was collected from the hair salon floors.

For Fung, who studied Fine Art at the University of Waterloo, it’s not that far a stretch to create sculpture from hair. She is a hairdresser specializing in avant-garde hairstyles. But the show was a chance to explore her emotions in more depth – hence the title Intuition.

“I had to get this stuff out, otherwise it would be cluttered in my head,” she says with a smile.

Natasha Gerschon, a professional image maker who produced photos and video for the show, says the goal of the exhibit is to give gut feelings a physical presence.

These sculptures, to me reminiscent of bears, were created out of a bubble wrap centre encased in real human hair, all natural brown colour — some of which friends donated.

“Intuition is not tangible – but we’re giving a visual to go with it,” she says, noting that she chose dreamlike music to heighten viewers’ emotional response.

Shirley Liang added to the show’s spellbinding effect with dramatic masks, headpieces and a surreal chest piece. The piece below, which looks like seashells, is actually made of pistachio shells and sunflower seeds.

Headpiece created by Shirley Liang featuring pistachio shells and seeds

After they brought Gerschon on board, Fung, Yamasaki and Liang recruited other creative talents in the fashion industry to collaborate on the show:

  • Kelvin Roman Lau, a recent Ryerson fashion grad, whose designs are highlighted in the photos and video
  • Tiffany Hung of Plutino Models, a highly expressive model featured in the video and photos
  • Makeup artists Melanie White and Christina Nguyen, who provided the model’s makeup

Fung says they provided each member of the collaborative team with a brief overview of what they were looking for, but encouraged them to use their own intuition in creating their work.

“If you give too much guidance, it’s forced,” she says.

Model Tiffany Hung featured in Natasha Gerschon’s video accompanying the exhibit

Fung was delighted with the turnout to the opening, especially seeing her friends from the salon coming out.

“I was very overwhelmed,” she says. “Everyone was very happy and very supportive.”

Hopefully that support will encourage these hairstylists to make more art in the future.

The show is on daily from 9 to 11 a.m. now through March 5 at the Art Square Café and Gallery, 334 Dundas St. W.

Natural High: The Art of Bird-Watching

Creatures that fly on their own power, armed with sharp talons and sharper eyes, with calls that range from musical to threatening … birds would be mythical beasts if they didn’t live among us.

They soar in graceful silhouettes, build homes in trees, and demonstrate levels of intelligence that science is just starting to grasp. ‘Bird brain’ could be a compliment. They’ve moved poets and artists like John James Audubon to great heights – and still do.

Among local admirers: science journalist Genna Buck and nature photographer Lance McMillan. The duo joined hordes of Toronto bird-watchers for this year’s Christmas Bird Count, an event that brings out more than 70,000 people all over North, Central and South America, both professional ornithologists and citizen scientists.

The count is an invaluable contribution to science, indicating population and health of species. It’s also a chance to appreciate birds in their natural habitats. And watch other bird-watchers.

“I’m obsessed with subcultures,” Buck says. Essentially, if there are people with passions, she wants to meet them, even if it means showing up on a Sunday at 8 a.m. in snowpants.

Early dawn and deer at Park Lawn Cemetery. (Copyright Lance McMillan)

McMillan arrived before dawn to get a head start. He’s travelled to Japan to photograph snow monkeys and the Galapagos Islands to shoot wildlife there, so was excited to focus on creatures closer to home. He and Buck reported to ‘Sector 2’ in Etobicoke and the Humber Valley, starting at Park Lawn Cemetery. McMillan was rewarded for his early arrival by spotting three deer.

Turns out Toronto is home to some wild wildlife: Birds of prey nest on condos, the highest spots in what used to be Carolinian Forest.

Peregrine falcons are at home in Toronto, thanks to condos. (Copyright Lance McMillan)

“We don’t have old-growth forests here, but we have new-growth condos,” says Buck, relating a drama she and McMillan witnessed by the Humber River.

A peregrine falcon was circling a condo, then swooped down to kill a gull, dragging it to a rock.

“Then a kestrel came and head-butted him to take the seagull,” Buck says.

During the bird count, a kestrel stole a peregrine falcon’s meal. (Copyright Lance McMillan)

The kestrel took off with the dead gull, but lost it. Kestrel karma.

McMillan saw the whole thing play out in high definition through a scope (a small telescope), down to the blood dripping from the falcon’s mouth. Buck had a pair of opera glasses that served her well. (TIP: If you don’t have a scope, binoculars, or – like Buck – opera glasses, you can use your smartphone camera and zoom in to watch birds.)

The pair learned to identify robins from a distance because they look like flying apples (they’re really plump). They saw woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, and in the public parks, they were swarmed by chickadees expecting to be fed.

Overwintering Canada geese in the Christmas Bird Count. (Copyright Lance McMillan)

Most of all, they saw waterfowl. Some Canada geese overwinter here. The Humber River is alive in winter with rafts (that’s genuinely the term) of ducks: honey mergansers, long-tailed ducks and buffleheads.

For McMillan, while he got a lot of great shots, the bird count was a chance to learn where these birds hang out so he can go back and take more time.

(Copyright Lance McMillan)

Both he and Buck found their best aid was their human guides, professional birders.

“You really appreciate the trained eye,” says Buck.

Bird-watching, for both amateurs and seasoned pros, helps train the eye, a boon to any artist.

“Don’t try too hard to keep up with the birds,” adds Buck, encouraging first-timers. “Do it as a way to see the city from a different angle.”

Special thanks to Lance McMillan for sharing his photos, including the featured image of the woodpecker at the top of this post. You can see more of his work at Lance McMillan Photography,