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Jessica Soares Journeys Through Her Experiences With Alopecia In Debut Solo Exhibition

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Jessica Soares presents for the first time a solo exhibition in Rele Gallery, Lagos. Curated by Wana Udobang, ‘Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone‘ presents a selection of works that touch on the artists condition characterised by hair thinning and hair loss. These works are drawn from her experiences and explorations of her enduring interest of identity.

On View from 10 September – 21 October 2023

Installation shot ‘Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone‘.
Image courtesy of Rele Gallery.

Born 1990, Jessica Soares is a multidisciplinary artist whose works explores the intricacies and social stereotypes surrounding women’s hair in modern culture. Her paintings are known to use Adire fabric to explore concerns of lineage and familial bond and feature intricately detailed figures covered in colorful fabrics.

Jessica’s ‘Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone‘ shows us how passionate the artist is about telling tales about women’s hair and how inspired she is by references to a woman’s hair as her “crowning glory” to create works that chronicle her own experiences with alopecia.

The exhibitions seem to ask these questions; What does it mean when we do not possess the aesthetic markers of belonging? How do we perform through these expectations and how do we reconcile with our realities?

Jessica Soares, Do I Have To Define Myself, 2023, Acrylic Iridescent Acrylic And Paper Collage On Canvas, 147 x 147 cm.
Image courtesy of Rele Gallery.

The artist presents a body of paintings exploring the in-between, the oscillation from how we present ourselves to the world against our actual realities. A kind of sense making of being void of said glory. The works in this series play with wigs and scarves as objects of masking, figures adorned in brightly coloured Victorian dresses in performance of hyper femininity along with etchings of plants half dying and part blooming. The frames inside the frames become a symbolism for our preoccupation with image and the omnipresent hand mirror serves in duality as both confrontation and distortion. 

Collaged testimonies and stories are incorporated into the paintings, transforming the art from individual to collective. This serves as a reminder that beauty is a shared burden. The result is a series of paintings that are bright, confrontational, and personal. An invitation into this uncertain state that is both symbolic and unreal.

Jessica Soares, Is My Identity Unstable, 2023, Acrylic Iridescent Acrylic And Paper Collage On Canvas, 147 x 147 cm.
Image courtesy of Rele Gallery.

Though the works are inspired by the artist’s lived experience, the journey of hair loss becomes a point of departure into the larger themes of perception, the value of material aesthetics and the difficult task of making peace through iterations of being. 

A fundamental human yearning is belonging. But occasionally, arbitrary marks might make it difficult for us to be accepted as our entire selves. A provocation, Soares’ work encourages us to see and permit others to see without being constrained by these arbitrary criteria.

Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone is a navigation of loss, a grieving if we must and reconciliation with self in a world that often doesn’t make room for us when we cannot meet its expectations. 

About Jessica Soares

Jessica holds a BA degree in Marketing from Redeemer’s University. She lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.

In 2021, she was selected to be part of the Rele Arts Foundation Young Contemporaries Residency and has gone on to take part in the group exhibition Good Things Come In Threes, (2022), Rele Gallery, Los Angeles, as well solo exhibition Who We Are When The Glory Is Gone (2023) Rele Gallery, Lagos

Jessica Soares, Must Hair Mean Something, 2023, Acrylic Iridescent Acrylic And Paper Collage On Canvas, 147 x 147 cm. Image courtesy of Rele Gallery.

Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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