A hair day unlike any other

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First Posted: 7/23/2014

Good hair day. Bad hair day. We’ve all had them. But have you ever had one that turned into…a spider? Or a bat?
That’s what happened to Christian Baloga, a NEPA artist who took the everyday and twisted into something delicate, beautiful, and, well, a little strange – though in the best way possible.
His work was so astounding, in fact, that it caught the eye of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum in Times Square. Three of Baloga’s human hair sculptures now make their home there.
We caught up with the creator of such curious things to find out how in the world he took something we see and touch every single day, and turned it into exquisite art.
WEEKENDER: The question that surely pops into everyone’s mind at first: How did you even get the idea to make sculptures out of human hair?
CHRISTIAN BALOGA: I remember picking up fallen hair on my bedroom floor when I was very young and thinking, “What can I make from this?” I hate seeing anything go to waste—even things that are thought to be as mundane and useless as a fallen strand of hair. At that time I started a collection; although, I threw it all away after putting the project off. A few years ago I started recollecting my hair, eventually acquiring enough to create something substantial. And through creative exploration I had conceptualized enough throughout the years, including the idea of hair art, to begin planning for my up-and-coming art exhibit titled “Christian Baloga: The Beauty of Grotesque,” in which I explore what I call “conditional beauty,” often made from objects detached from the human body.
W: How do you treat it in order to make it usable in your artwork?
CB: I use only the hair from my own scalp as it evokes a powerful extended memory connection to my work. While there are methods of treating hair, such as the Victorian way, for instance, of preparing memorial hair work by boiling the hair in a soda and water solution to remove the oils, I chose to manipulate the hair in its raw form. Get close up and you can smell my shampoo. Do I hear your stomach turning yet?
W: How do you construct such a delicate piece? How long does one take?
CB: I first sketch or digitally construct the final object I want to create from various angles to use as a guide. Each strand of hair is then divided. To form the object itself, I thread an individual strand of hair through a needle and start to create a series of stitches upon itself, molding the object as I go along. Being born with coarse hair also makes working with the delicate material easier; though, as you can imagine, it’s still a great deal trickier than working with typical stitching thread. The time it takes to create each creature varies. The vampire bat took roughly 75 hours to stitch and mold alone—this doesn’t account for the hair collecting, conceptualization, or preparation. The horse-fly and the black widow spider, due to their smaller size, took about two weeks per piece to construct.
W: Have you made more than the three Ripley’s bought from you? And how long will your artwork be on display there? CB: At that time I sold all of my hair sculptures to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum. I’m currently working on a special project though. My artwork will be displayed at Ripley’s museum as part of their permanent collection. Right now, they are exhibited in the Ripley’s museum on Times Square, New York, and will remain there until further notice. The hairy creatures’ final home is undecided at this time.
W: How does it feel to have your work showing in a venue like Ripley’s?
CB: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! evokes wonderful memories of attending the museums on vacation, reading the hardcover books and cartoons in newspapers, and being inspired as a young child who found a place that celebrates the unusual aspects of the universe. With that said, to become an eternal part of this bizarre world of Ripley’s feels incredible. To also have my artwork recognized and appreciated by people who “get it” is what every artist dreams of. I’m beyond thankful.