Meet Joanne Petit-Frere, the Hair Sculptor Championing Black Hair as Art

Featured Image: Delphine Diallo

Brooklyn-based artist Joanne Petit-Frére is creating fantastical sculptures by using hair as her medium and having recently worked with Solange Knowles, Petit-Frere’s hair sculptures are changing the existing distinctions between Fashion, Beauty, Art and Design whilst championing Black hair.

dtmh @eveningstandardmagazine

A post shared by Solange (@saintrecords) on

Why did you to begin using hair as your creative medium?

I thought it was the most expressive and ornamental medium I could change at my most willing mood, even easier to me than clothing. Or, quite similar to the medium of clothing; when I took classes from high school at F.I.T. I took a strong interest in designing from the head, down.

We love your inspiration images that you upload on social media displaying the cultural significance of hair and the limitless beauty that Black hair has. What is your story of creation?

All of nature, known and unknown inspires me. I create to re-create and honour the histories, the present and that which is to come. I focus on the braid and hair, as to communicate these feelings to the mind.

Congratulations on the incredible hair sculptures Solange Knowles wore for publications recently, how did you begin creating hair sculptures for Solange?

Thank you so much. We’ve been in touch before but weren’t able to work together due to schedule differences. This time however, it all happened exactly when it was supposed to. Life is beautiful that way. She’s lovely.

We think it is inspirational to see Black hair being championed as art within itself. How did it feel seeing the Evening Standard photoshop out Solange’s hair sculpture? 

I felt like it was a lazy edit. I thought it was ironic that they would offend their cover artist in this way… for an Arts issue though? Also while the story piece questions her ownership of her body & hair, it reinforces the threat of that same question by editing her hair crown, unbeknown to her. It’s just whack.

Do you think the beauty standards of Black women in todays society, in particular the expected appearance of their hair, due to mass media and the Fashion industry will one day be dismantled?

It’s already happening.

How would you explain the transition of your craft from hair stylist to sculptor and your work with Jo Goes West?

If you look at my work and collaborations with photographers, they read to my visual voice. The reason this is possible is because of blending my practices & influences between fashion design, hair braiding, costume design, performance art, sculpture, engineering, architecture, craft-making, math & even chemistry. For example, I prefer to film my work that have it photographed. This particular selection is not just an aesthetic one, but to also match values of poetry & manners of technical trade. I also see this multi-dimensional decision making to be sculptural.

Jo Goes West is an epic narrative I am building through braids and hair as the medium. It is a dark-tale and a multi-engaging metaphor teaching the fabulousness of the alternative interacting with the traditional.

Discover more of Joanne Petit-Frère’s project Jo Goes West here.