A few years ago, a friend of Detroit-area beautician Tiffany Moore showed her a painting she wanted Moore to recreate for her daughter. Though Moore was busy with her hair salon and unable to paint it at the time, she thought, “it would be dope if you could add hair to that.”
Since being quarantined, Moore, 32, has finally found the time to recreate that painting, with hair. The painting shows the back of a little girl’s head with French braided pigtails in two silver bows accompanied with hearts and butterflies in the background.
It became the first of several hair-incorporated art pieces Moore has created.
Since Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on March 23 temporarily closing hair, nail, and other non-essential personal care services, Moore figured out another way to do hair, but not on human heads.
She sketches an idea on a canvas in pencil which is typically of a person’s face or the back of their head, enhances it with acrylic paint, and then maps out where she’d like to attach hair onto the painting. Moore hand-braids some paintings with Kanekalon hair, a synthetic hair used in many hairstyles among African Americans, as it resembles their natural hair texture. She also uses regular track hair – human hair used in weaves or wigs on paintings with curly styles, such as pigtail puffs. Many of the paintings even include accessories, from earrings and necklaces to hair clips and beads.
Pre-quarantine, Moore serviced 200 to 300 clients at Tiffy’s Beauty Bar in Eastpointe, Michigan, formerly known as East Detroit. She’s been styling hair, from braided styles to weaves, since she was 12 years old. She is creative with designs and calls herself “The Hairgician.” Her website says she’s “the person who creates magic for her clients without a wand!”
The past several weeks have been the longest Moore has gone in her hairstyling career without transforming the heads of men and women. “Once the lockdown began and I had to close my salon down, I became stressed and had anxiety, so I decided to pull out some old art supplies to cope with it,” Moore says.
Growing up, Moore loved drawing and painting but as she started her family and began working, she never had the time to pursue those interests. Now, she does and it’s garnering her acclaim.
The Bronner Bros., an international hair show and brand, posted her paintings on its products’ Instagram page. The Shade Room, a predominately-Black focused media outlet, posted her art on Instagram. Her work was featured on the app Tik Tok. She went viral.
Moore capitalized on the sudden fame by hosting two live auctions in early April on Facebook and Instagram. She sold all six paintings she auctioned off.
One of the buyers, Lisa Carter, saw The Shade Room’s post about Moore and was adamant about purchasing a painting when she saw that they were being sold. “I love unique art and was immediately struck by the creativity,” Carter says. Since Carter lives in New Jersey, Moore had to ship the painting, which is of a woman with a multicolor wrap and a natural puff. “It will be hanging in my home before the night is over!” Carter says.
Isreala Greene, another art buyer and client of Moore’s, recalled being “mesmerized” when she first saw Moore’s artwork on Facebook. She had her sights set on the painting she scored, even interpreting it her own way. “The eyes of the female, it was as if she was looking off to paradise,” Green says. “You only see half of her face, which is a mystery, and the pigtails set me off with the real hair. I had to purchase it after all of that.”
Each painting in the auctions started at $45, and all sold for over $70. The highest went for $255. Moore says the proceeds from the paintings haven’t made up for her salon losses, but they’ve helped with groceries and utilities and she’s grateful for that.
Moore has begun creating more paintings and has plans to hold another auction. She also plans to create video tutorials on either YouTube or Instagram. The videos will detail how to attach and braid the hair to the canvas. She doesn’t currently take custom orders, as each painting is unique and uses materials she already has in the house.
She’s received an outpouring of appreciation for her artwork. A supporter on Instagram said, “A true artist! I’ll bet it shows on canvas AND on your clients.”
Though Moore appreciates the attention her art has received, she views her accomplishment as a natural extension of her first love. “I’m just a hairstylist who misses doing hair.”
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This article is part of the Fermata: Arts and Culture in the Time of Coronavirus series reported by students in the Critical Writing course at the Newhouse School. Fermata features stories on the impact of the pandemic on a wide range of artists and cultural figures, from musicians and comedians to restaurateurs and boutique owners.