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Beauty in Transition is a two part installation – a mobile, outdoor beauty salon serving the local Denver homeless population, and an audio/video installation within the RedLine exhibition space. Situated in-between RedLine and St. Francis, a local homeless day shelter, Beauty in Transition provides beauty services including a hair wash, cut, color and/ or style service to willing participants. Interviews with participants were collected and presented within the gallery installation.

The project involves the intersection of three major institutional sectors: The Nonprofit Arts sector, Homeless Shelter Institutions, and Beauty Institutions including salons and educational centers. Through providing human-to-human dialogue beyond institutional constraints, this project aims to facilitate empathetic understanding and to unravel the reductive label of home-less. To be defined as something one does not own is a tribute to our capitalistic inequality.

This project requests a space beyond legislative and socio-economic spheres and articulates what equality might look like outside of bottom-line bureaucratic functionality, wherein homeless shelters function to provide fixed services within an ongoing and largely unchanged social order. Rather than increased invisibility behind the institutional doors of a shelter, this project considers increased visibility through reclaimed authorship to one's self-image, while breaking long-standing and pervasive social barriers of touch that stigmatize someone who has become homeless.

Because homeless subjects are often entrenched in a daily struggle for survival, where a set number of basic needs are negotiated (food, shelter, clothing), I am interested in exploring how identity and agency recedes under a narrowing structure—and how this process can be resisted, or reversed. Beauty in Transition provides a cosmetic service. While this gesture may seem superfluous, providing access to something extra, something beyond necessity, is an act geared toward re-accessing parts of identity that have been pushed aside or forgotten. This ‘nonessential’ service has the potential to amplify and transform, however temporarily, people’s lives.

The idea of transforming one’s hair with a cut, color, or straightening iron is not only about maintaining appearances, it is also a physical manifestation of the transformative process inherent in periods of extreme transition; these periods carry within them not only the experience of loss, but also rebirth and potential for growth.

Special thank you to the Aveda Academy and Pure Talent Salons of Denver for donating their hair products and several volunteer stylists, Jennifer Miller and Nikki Pike for their support as the bARTer Collective, and Tom Luhres and the volunteers of St. Francis Center in Denver.

First Version was launched at Lawrence Community Shelter in 2006

BEAUTY IN TRANSITION. 2013. Community-Based Project