Looking at RabÄ“a Ballin's paintings and drawings, it's easy to guess she's obsessed with hair. Not just as a textural object that's visually interesting but as an expression of status, self-worth and beauty.
Courtesy of RabÄ“a Ballin Miss Third Ward
"I was raised in a beauty shop," Ballin tells us. "My mom was a trained beautician and I was always her little apprentice. I always thought what she did was sculptural. These women would come in and she'd tease up their hair and make these bouffant sculptures."
Eventually Ballin realized that she was seeing more than just hair styles. "I would associate these women and their hair with their religious affiliation or their nationality or their age group so I started thinking of hair as an identifier, as a way to self-express.
"I started drawing hair in grad school because I love texture. Now I'm just obsessed with these really eccentric hairstyles that tie into culture and status and the fact that the only thing we can change from day to day is our hair. At first, I didn't want to draw portraits of people just from the back, now these hairstyles don't even have heads and bodies attached to them anymore."
Ballin used her hairdressing skills to earn money while in college. "I'd braid hair for gas money - I made a lot money," she laughs. "I still have a couple of customers that I [work with] on a regular basis. As I'm braiding their hair I'm thinking 'Hmm, can I draw that?'"More »