Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Shapeshifting: Portraitist Spencer Evans discusses Black hair

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Department of Art and Design hosted a lecture led by artist Spencer Evans on Feb. 17.

The presentation highlighted this year’s theme, “Black Hair,” for the upcoming Holland College of Arts and Media Diversity Committee’s (HCAM) “Bridges” event. The theme reflects the type of art Evans is noted for: Black portraiture.

Evans, of Houston, offered a disclaimer before presenting his thoughts on Black hair.

“To be clear, I’m not an expert of Black hair just because I have it,” he said. “There is a community of professionals that focus on the topic specifically.”

Evans’ website provides additional clarity on his stance on hair as an ethnic identifier.

“When it comes to Black hair, I see it as an expression,” Evans said. “It is the most noticeably distinct hair texture we see in our society. It's the texture you can immediately connect to an ethnicity or racial group just on sight.”

Evans said the intent of his work is to study and highlight the relationship between the inner and outer self in context with the environment that created it.

Evans earned a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art from the University of Missouri in 2009 with an emphasis in drawing and painting. Later, Evans earned a Master’s in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Arlington. According to Evans' website, his work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Art in Dallas and in several other galleries throughout Texas. He was also a solo exhibitor at the Imago Gallery and Cultural Center in Columbia, Mo.

Evans said Black women are often compelled to alter their hair to change society’s perception of them.

“Black women and femmes are arguably the greatest shapeshifters on earth,” Evans stated. “They are charged with considering the narrow standards of femininity, beauty and professionalism.”

He also talked about the chemicals used to straighten hair. The chemicals physically change their appearance and cause damage to Black hair.

Evans’ presentation for “Bridges” is among several that focus on the Black experience. The event also features artist and printmaker Katrina Andry of New Orleans.

Hannah Sanders is the Associate Professor of printmaking for SEMO’s Department of Art and Design. She provided a brief explanation during the lecture about the upcoming “Bridges” event.

“Bridges” is a really exciting event that is going to bring together art, music, dance, theater and mass media in a series of performances,” Sanders stated.

This event occurs in conjunction with the collaborative quilt display project from the Department of Art and Design at Southeast. Evans’ lecture was funded by the Division of Equity, Access and Behavioral Health.

“Bridges” is a free event. It will be held in the Rose Theatre on March 1 at 6 p.m. with a limited number of face-to-face views to conform with COVID-19 safety guidance. An online viewing will be live-streamed on the HCAM Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Facebook page.