An exhibition of corporate white women displaying African-American hairstyles in an exhibit labelled “Can I Touch It?” opens discussion on the way different races and genders, express their individuality in the corporate workplace. Instead of writing a scathing op-ed about how Corporate America’s fascination with African-American’s hairstyles leads many to ask “Can I Touch It?”, Endia Beal mocks the question with a series of satirical portraits.
In the series of portraits, taken during a summer residency with the Center for Photography at Woodstock, white women in their 40’s were given new hairstyles then posed for a traditional corporate style portrait. Beal used an older group of women, presumably with more corporate experience, to see things from her perspective.
The women did not know which styles they would receive and when asked one participant asked “You’re going to give me cornrows?” Beal used the question to educate the women on the diversity of African-American hairstyles, like finger waves ala the 1920s.
I said, ‘No, we’re going to do finger waves.’ ‘Finger waves? What’s that? You mean from the ’20s?’ And I said, ‘These are a little bit different type of finger waves!’” Slate reports.
The idea for Endia Beal’s exhibition came from her own experiences as an intern in the IT department at Yale. Many of her colleagues took notice of her large red afro and rumors began to circulate around the workplace that many wanted to touch her hair.
Beal is considering expanding the project in an expose format by having the women enter their workspaces wearing their new hairstyles and speaking candidly about their experiences on video.