lock of hair wound around on a flat surface with colorful, graphic dots placed like beaded hair clips

Althea Murphy-Price, Candy Necklace, 2015, lithograph, screenprint, collage, 22.5 x 30 in.

The Huntsville Museum of Art and the Museum’s Black History Month Committee are excited to host the upcoming exhibition, Encounters: Althea Murphy-Price. Murphy-Price uses hair and hair accessories to create prints and sculptural installations. The works of this mid-career artist from Knoxville, TN explore the links between individuality and assimilation, and their influence on culture and personal identity.

Althea Murphy-Price often manipulates manufactured synthetic and human hair, emphasizing its role as embellishment as well as its ability to signify racial identity. “I am fascinated by the inexplicable link between the subject of hair and its influence on our social culture and personal identity. Much of my inspiration has derived from hair’s significant relevance to Black American culture and community,” she explains.

a young girl facing away from the camera with hair clips covering her hair

Althea Murphy-Price, Goody Girl No. 3, 2018, giclée print, 36 x 26 in.

Murphy-Price began working sculpturally with synthetic hair by melting it with heat, then cutting and reshaping it into various configurations that are installed on pedestals and along gallery walls. The artist also began creating “hair rug” installations in which hand-cut hair clippings are dusted over lacy stencils to form striking, carpet-like patterns. In some of these works, Murphy-Price has combined sugar with expensive imported human hair. Both products are consumer goods that the artist relates to ideas of beauty and desire, as well as systems of imitation and control.

Murphy-Price’s prints are a fitting complement to her sculptural applications of hair, each referencing and mimicking one element of the seemingly endless universe of artificial hair. The artist creates these works via the process of photolithography. She takes a photo exposure to capture information from the actual object, and then translates it into a print. In some, screen-printed elements are added onto lithographic images of hair arrangements to look like actual hair ties. “My desire with these prints is to deceive the eye,” she observes, “so that one will look, and look again, and question whether it’s the real thing or not.”

The Southern artist received her BA in studio art from Spelman College in Atlanta. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts in printmaking and painting from Purdue University and a Master of Fine Arts at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. She is currently an Associate Professor of Printmaking at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Encounters: Althea Murphy-Price opens at the Huntsville Museum of Art on January 17, 2021 and closes on May 23, 2021. The distinctive exhibition will be on display in the Grisham gallery of the Museum and will be included with the general price of admission. Tickets can be purchased at the front desk in the lobby of the Museum or online here. The Huntsville Museum of Art asks that visitors wear a face mask at all times while inside.