I walked into New York's Brookfield Place, unsure where to arrive at Blonde. This was just as the artist intended. A Tony's Chocolonely pop-up shop, glistening with platinum pink shaggy table runners and plush carpeting at the window display, was designed to intrigue mallgoers into the space and conceal the exhibition upon arrival. Knowing Hendry masters an entrance, the velvet curtain at Blonde revealed a speakeasy passage to a barbershop dressed art exhibition. Like her other shows, the decision to enter Hendry's exhibition is a commitment to experience. Unknowingly, guests were in for a different type of treat.
The space lined with barber chairs: pink Ultrafragola floor-length mirrors facing velvet swivel seats that offered a haircut. Wandering customers made their way to the final room with the option to transform their look with temporary fashion, a gifted wig, the totem of this art series. At this point, where Hendry's wig illustrations surround the space, the layers of discovery are actualised. Wigs of colourful expressions – rainbow, blonde, pink, aqua – texture and volume are conceivably realistic as a documented photography, but that's the testament to Hendry's talent.
She's an artist that not only illustrates reality but inspires the realisation of its beauty. The excitement permeates the space, feelings of anticipation when opening the ziplock to your gifted wig, strangers beside one another take selfies in laughter. In CJ Hendry's words, “wigs are the quickest ways to instantly transform yourself and play with one's identity.”
While guests explored their personal expression in the company of art intended to epitomise the transformation of expression, Hendry's Blonde is a continued dialogue about another sense of transformation, a shift in how art is shared and received. At the opening of Blonde, the collection became available through NFT-purchase. The artist shares, “Art is meant to be viewed and enjoyed and, in our current world, that can take on a wide range of definitions and experiences.”
In creating new homes, like the Blonde barbershop, for art to be displayed, all people – age, race, gender, and background, decide how art is accepted personally to their expression. Another expression for the interest in transformation is also found in Hendry's commitment to donating financial proceeds from the show to support the wellbeing of young LGBTQI+ lives. She explained: “I'm donating a portion of the exhibit's proceeds to the Ali Forney Center's motto is ‘Transforming Lives.’ In this way, it is a perfect fit for this transformative exhibit. I am thoroughly impressed with their commitment to saving the lives of LGBTQ+ young people as their mission is to protect them from the harms of homelessness and empower them with the tools needed to live independently.”
The art of transformation displayed in variety: a frizzed bob with forehead bangs, mid-length hairdos flat-ironed, a side-bang wave, and a boyish bob with a spectrum of blue highlights. The artist explored hair texture, style, and movement, a unique obstacle in 2D artwork. Exceeding the challenge, Hendry brought to life not only a realistic but diverse representation of hair. Undoubtedly this impact inspires art appreciators to consider the depth and possibility of transformation within themselves – the invitation to explore to unbound.
The sense of exploration is consistent with Hendry's exhibitions – Monochrome, Rorschach – and now the Blonde barbershop. Just as the community of wigs outside the entrance shepard my direction to the exhibition that evening, disrupting an upmarket with a diversity of celebration and cheer, Hendry's right: wigs are undeniably transformative.