Kim Moodie: The Art of Hair

Hello. I am Kim Moodie‘s hair. So what, you might say. Well, as fate would have it, I have suddenly been brought to life and made a prominent object of artistic interest and creative expression in Kim’s exhibition at the McIntosh Gallery, entitled Any Dream Will Do. (March 18, 2016 – May 14, 2016) I am featured prominently in the photographs and videos that make up a significant part of this exhibition.

The idea of line and line creating volume, substance, and direction is very strong in all of Kim’s works.

Kim Moodie, All Things
All Things (2015) Oil and acrylic on canvas

Truth be told, I think I really started to take on my identity as an art object in Kim’s show All But Not, at Museum London in 2011, where the focus of many of the works was on line, line drawings and line sculptures. Line is also significant in the large and boldly coloured paintings and preparatory drawings in this current exhibition, as well. The idea of line and line creating volume, substance, and direction is very strong in all of Kim’s works. My place as an aesthetic object is an extension of that, in the multitude of strands and lines of which I am.

I feature foremost in the art and composition of the seven large colour digital photographs that take up one wall of the gallery of this exhibition. Here, they are presented as one piece, entitled Hair Diaries. I know I look a bit shocking, my natural mature grey whiteness hanging loosely down past Kim’s shoulders, equal to the length of Joni Mitchell’s or Janis Joplin’s hair from the ’60s and ’70s. My ageing coarseness, unevenness, and split ends add a rather tactile affect to the photographs. I also have surprising thickness for my age. Kim loves that about me as I allow Kim to play out a common psychological theme that punctuates his drawings and paintings in these photographs, that of masks and hidden identity. But in these photographs, exploring this theme is done in a much more invigorating and personal way, moving Kim’s work in an entirely new direction, foraging in new territory. The mask is me and in the photographs and also in the short videos I enable Kim to be both present as art object, and yet remain hidden, so that these works are not just portraits, but they are about surface and composition as well.

In three of the photographs, I effectively obscure Kim’s profiled face as he is in the intimate act of kissing someone. You might think these photos are about gender and sexuality, questioning the place of an ageing male in contemporary society. Or maybe you think there is a more personal narrative presented, one about love, desire, and loss. Yes, the work might be read as such. But, for me, the fact that I hide Kim’s identity seems to put more of an emphasis on the artist as object and the play between the self as object and as subject of the work. The same pose is taken in all three photographs, which has Kim sitting knee-to-knee with the other person while they kiss. But in each photograph the person being kissed is generationally different. In the photograph of Kim kissing another man, someone handsome and nearing middle age, there is a strong wind blowing from behind Kim’s head and, wow, I look like an artistic splash of grey smeared across the picture plane. This prominent painterly gesture adds significant dynamics and tension both to the subject matter of the painting as well as to the surface of the work. I create a similar effect in the photo of the clowning-around Kim playing his toy electric guitar, where I am like a jagged-edged blob of paint thrown across the centre of the photo.

Kim Moodie, Rampant
Rampant (2015) Oil and acrylic on canvas

In the other two kissing photographs, something interesting happens. In one photo, a kiss is held between Kim and a young girl, and in nearly the same pose, in the other photo he is kissing an older woman. There are noticeable differences in Kim’s body tension between these two photos. I am like a shroud, I hang around the acts of kissing, reflecting and blending in with that tension, while at the same time resting as an object form on the surface.

And then there is the photograph of me, the hair, and Kim dressed in the clown suit. The clown and carnival are other themes that frequently appear in Kim’s drawings and paintings. In this work, there is the clown, and Kim, and me, the hair. Together we make a dynamic statement about hiding and masking identities and about artist and art object, while at the same time we are the content of the work that on the surface is engaging and playful.

The photo of Kim eating a large bowl full of me, or rather balls of hair, with a fork, to be washed down with water, is bizarre. (You could say that Kim is really making a meal of the hair thing here.) I am really not sure why he did this, but Kim can be a bit goofy sometimes.

It is in the continuously running short digital videos, entitled Keep Breathing, that I really strut my stuff. In this I am a moving thing, like a thing breathing. In fact, one of the shorter videos features me looking like I am doing just that, breathing, through my long strands hanging over Kim’s face, completely hiding it. In another video, I am the animated head of a clown playing the French horn and in another I am the enlivened top of a carnival clown blowing on a toy plastic horn while playing a toy drum.

But it is really in the old rock-and-roller videos that I start to dance and go wild. The ageing wannabe rocker and I become both separate and one, and compete for attention. In one video Kim really comes out of the closet and shows his face throughout, as he grimaces and somewhat timidly attempts to sing and swing to the music, playing out a fantasy of being a rock star, while dressed in his expensive-looking, tailored suit. I become like his dance partner, moving and gyrating my body while swaying back and forth with great sensuality. I really like how we go a little wild at the end. Hippie and yuppie, we dance it out.

So if I were to write about the art of this exhibition, I would make me, the hair, the focus; at least that is certainly so for the photographs and videos. As well as being about personal narrative and nostalgia intertwined with the content of artist as subject and object of the art, it is also much about identity, hidden, veiled, and peeking through, and I enable Kim to do that — quite successfully I might add.

KIM MOODIE: Any Dream Will Do continues to May 14, 2016
McIntosh Gallery, Western University, London, Ontario

This post originally appeared on The Yodeller (no longer in publication).



Join the Conversation


  1. says: Madeline Lennon

    What a brilliant idea — giving voice to the hair! This has helped me understand work that puzzled me. I do remember the artist commenting on the influence of a teen-aged daughter for his thinking!

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