Melissa Stern: Does She or Doesn't She?

Opening: Friday, Oct 23, 2020 7 – 10 pm
Friday, Oct 23 – Dec 11, 2020

2019 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60647


That is the question.

Taken from a vintage advertising campaign for Clairol Hair Coloring (“Does She or Doesn’t She? Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure!”), the tag line has myriad answers. Does she or doesn’t she… color her hair? Have sex with strangers? Have a secret inner life? Love her husband? Long to escape?. The possibilities are endless.  The suggestive nature of the slogan is no accident. The Madmen-era copywriter knew exactly how to pitch the line. “Does She or Doesn’t She” wasn’t selling hair care; it was selling discretion, self-confidence, secrecy, independence, the mere possibility for deviation from the prescriptive life of the American woman. "Does She Or Doesn't She" doesn't necessarily mean she has a choice...but maybe. 

Drawn, painted, collaged, and sculpted, “Does She or Doesn’t She” looks at how we define ourselves with our most primal adornment: our hair. We measure age, professionalism, and politics by hair condition and styling. Our hair is dead cells manipulated to connote life, youth, potential. Hair is a locus of both agency and restraint for women, empowering and constricting, allowing us to feel a focus-group-tested version of freedom and an untamed, passionate version of control. 

We are able to become whatever woman we want to be via our hair. And when that hair is gone… who are you? And if you’re tempted to ask me, “Does She or Doesn’t She?” My answer hasn’t changed. 


Image: Does She or Doesn’t She, oil stick, charcoal, graphite. 23.5 x 17.5, 2020