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Essay: Hair Brush by BLESS

by Penny Martin on 1 July 2004

SHOWstudio Editor in Chief Penny Martin ponders the 'sinister sexual iconography' of BLESS's 'Hair' brush.

SHOWstudio Editor in Chief Penny Martin ponders the 'sinister sexual iconography' of BLESS's 'Hair' brush.

Sometimes, an object's association is so strong as to almost cancel the artefact out. The images or feelings that it stimulates inveigle their way into the meaning of the object, its appearance even, making it hard to reach an authentic, objective experience of the piece. In the case of the BLESS hair brush, it is Meret Oppenheim's Object (Breakfast in Fur) of 1936 that immediately hijacks the mind. It is as if the iconic Surrealist teacup, with its simultaneously appalling and delicious fur surface, becomes the only way to begin to understand something as curious as a hairbrush sprouting with blonde hair.

Certainly, there are similarities between the two. Each presents a playful paradox: utilitarian objects (a cup and a brush) whose functions are negated by the presence of something animal. The fur prevents anything from ever being poured into the cup. The tresses that replace bristles stop the brush ever being used to actually groom hair. Where they differ, however, is the way in which they use hair/fur to allude to femininity.

Part beauty product, part sinister sexual iconography, the meaning of BLESS's hair brush oscillates between the art and fashion worlds.

Oppenheim's is a bold and overtly sexualised conceit. Challenging the viewer to 'drink from the fur cup', the artist not only references pubic hair and female genitalia, but also 'simulates' the act of cunnilingus. Close inspection of BLESS's brush reveals a tiny gold tag with the imprinted BLESS logo, asserting the piece as fashion product. Indeed, at first, it appears to be a much sweeter statement, redolent of ladies' dressing tables and the extendable hairstyles that unwind from the tops of Girl's Worlds.

Yet, these nostalgic notions are in fact a gateway to something far more sophisticated, demure and dark in its sensuality. Like the cup, the brush evokes the physicality of the female body. This time, the whole body is represented, traced by the serpentine outer curves of the brush's paddle and handle. But if the curl of hair unfurls from the back of the head, this means the 'woman' lies face down, her face and front half of the body submerged into the surface below. Part beauty product, part sinister sexual iconography, the meaning of BLESS's hair brush oscillates between the art and fashion worlds.

'Hair' brush by BLESS, to order at BLESS Paris +33 148 01 67 43

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