A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on Tom and Lorenzo about jewelry made from human hair (http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/2011/07/kerry-howley-jewelry-collection.html).  I immediately had two very different reactions.  On the one hand I wanted to look closely at them because they seemed to delicate and intricate; and on the other I wanted to close the window and shudder because the thought of wearing human hair was so icky.  There was no denying the necklaces had their own type of beauty.  But there’s also no denying the squick factor.

One of the hair necklaces created by Kerry Howley

            So why is it so gross to think about wearing human hair?  We wear other animals’ hair all the time.  Even their skin if you wear leather.  And that’s fine.  So why no human hair?  You might be able to convince me to wear something made of my own hair, but certainly not someone else’s.  I spin animal fibers all the time, but I can’t imagine spinning human hair.  I’m not sure it’d spin up that well anyway though.  It’d probably have to be blended with another fiber.  But I digress.  People wear wigs and toupees made out of human hair and that’s fine too.  Maybe because it’s on a head where hair belongs.  Or there’s still that layer of netting or whatever between their head and the foreign hair.  I dunno.  I guess it’s because we view ourselves as so much better than animals that it’s ok to wear things made of animal parts but not human.  Even though personally I don’t agree with the wearing of real fur, the thought of wearing a fur coat still doesn’t evoke the same icky feeling as wearing a hair necklace. 

            This whole thing also got me thinking about the beauty of the gross.  There are certain things that while icky, are also somehow beautiful.  There are some things that you just can’t seem to stop looking at, even if they are kind of gross (and not just in a train wreck way).  I can think of a lot of examples of art that fit into this category.  Strangely a lot of it is religious art.  There are many Northern paintings of Jesus after his death that are really rather disgusting in their realism, yet the pieces are still beautiful.  There are also a number of various beheading scenes with blood dripping or squirting out of necks and throats.  I’m not sure if in this case the religious aspect of the works sort of negates the gross, or if it just shows that gross and beautiful are not mutually exclusive.

An example of religious squick - Caravaggio's Judith and Holofernes

            Certainly there are certain things that are just plain gross and always will be.  But some things are gross in an interesting way, and even some in a beautiful way.

 
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