About the Art: Isaac Olvera

We spoke to artist Isaac Olvera about his giant hair wigs, the impact of the environment on outdoor art, and working with hair as a material.

Hi Isaac, first of all can you tell us about you and your work?

For many years the first thing I do in the morning is to write an email to a friend who lives abroad, about the events of the previous day. It’s a form of release and aesthetic reflection upon life.

My studio in Mexico City has two rooms, one for writing and one for creating prototypes. Some days I spend my time with my students at Monterrey University (UDEM), in the north of Mexico,

My practice is rooted in the idea that an image can be mental, linguistic or even an apparition. I use classic artistic formats, including live performance, as well as more experimental mediums such as hair.

Where does the title for the wig pieces come from?

‘Your image will be weathered but never taken away’ describes how these giant natural hair wigs are transformed when displayed outdoors, and how their presence can create a lasting memory within the space of a city.

The wigs, especially the outdoor ones, become changed over time because of their surroundings. What made you decide to incorporate this into them?

It is a vulnerable public sculpture that reacts to its surroundings. The London air, the rain, the sun, the wind, the snow, all transform it…. almost disintegrate it. At the same time it gives the artwork life, makes it move.

Using hair for outdoor sculpture is a direct challenge to the traditions of public sculpture that use more durable materials such as stone and iron.

What is it like to work with hair as a material on this kind of scale?

It was so rewarding working with sisters Pastora and Fanny Sansores, the wig shop owners in Mexico City who shared their expertise with me and helped me manufacture the first run of giant wigs.

When we decided to install the production equipment inside the wig shop, it elicited a lot of laughter and surprise from their clients.

What do you want audiences to take away from your work?

The feeling of something unsettling but something that triggers the imagination.

To question whether the wigs might represent a person, or whether they are more akin to natural objects.

I hope the audience feels a sense of the uncanny they can relate to.

What is next for you?

Right now I am walking a lot in Monterrey, planning new public space interventions for late 2022.  Monterrey is an industrial city at the north of Mexico, with huge paradoxes compared with similar cities around the world. Historically it never went politically left, even though for each entrepreneur here there are hundreds of thousands of workers.

I have a few new books coming out too; one is a compilation of my performance essays, edited by curator Andrea Valencia.

Teaching at the university has really helped organise my thinking. It is fun to engage young people and sharing my knowledge and intuitions with them brings clarity to any imagined future work.

Lead image: Your image will be weathered but never taken away – Isaac Olvera © Bold Tendencies