Why I shaved my head

Brigette Lucas
14 April 2015
Brigette Lucas' film, Shaving Alopecia was first selected in 2014 by dLux Media for Artereal Gallery's Is This Art? event

Brigette Lucas took what was an emotionally challenging personal experience and turned it into a healing art practice.

A multimedia visual artist from the Northern Rivers of NSW, Brigette is currently on leave from her Bachelor of Media with Honours at Southern Cross University to engage with her arts practice. 

Her work deals primarily with the concepts of identity, femininity and sexuality, especially in relation to head hair. These themes stem from her own experience with alopecia, a hair loss condition, and is informed by critical research.

She recently exhibited successfully at the Lismore Regional Gallery window space in late 2014, Artereal Gallery for Sydney Art Month 2015 and Tortuga Studios for the Spectrum Now Festival 2015.

This is Brigette's story about engaging in such a personal artistic practice.

Shaving Alopecia screengrab1Shaving Alopecia screengrab2Shaving Alopecia screengrab3Shaving Alopecia screengrab4

The woman in the film is me. I’m shaving my head for the first time. Shaving my head, even though my hair is falling out. 

I created this artwork during the emotional journey of losing my hair to the autoimmune condition known as alopecia. Losing my head hair has had a huge impact on my life and has subsequently led me to further research the critical role that hair plays in society and culture as an Honours student at Southern Cross University. Shaving Alopecia began as part of my Media Project unit. As an independent project, I decided to create an exhibition of multimedia artworks that focused on my relationship with alopecia.

The exhibition’s opening night was overwhelming. I received support from staff, students, friends and family. This evening was filled with laughter and tears as the audience moved from trying on wigs to watching this film; for many it was the first time that they had seen me without a wig. 

The response to this exhibition lead to radio interviews, newspaper articles and to the Australian Alopecia Areata Foundation featuring this film on their social media platforms, gaining almost 2000 views.

Part of why I filmed myself shaving my head for the first time was because I wanted to capture this unique process that could never be repeated. The act highlights the struggle between wearing a wig as a disguise and losing your hair but not yet being bald. By shaving what was left of my hair, I was taking control of my appearance and identity for the first time in six years.

I end this piece in the same place that I began it, wearing a wig. The purpose of this loop is to encourage the audience to critically engage with the film, why did she put the wig back on? Is it because society judges women when they are bald? Even though I’m still hiding my baldness at the end of this piece, it felt like a step forward in accepting alopecia as part of my identity as a woman.

As an artist I am engaged with popular culture, film and visual arts, my research examines the close and pervasive connections between head hair and gender stereotypes. And it asks why is head hair so important to one’s self-perception in contemporary society, particularly for women?

I am continuing to explore this topic in both my research and creative practice as an Honours student at Southern Cross University. I hope to raise awareness of the condition and to create a positive space for women with alopecia.

As for the future of my creative arts practice, I hope to one day be able to pay a bill.