Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, also known as Shoplifter, uses something unusual to create her colorful art installations—hair. Using both synthetic and real hair, she creates giant fantasy landscapes and sculptures that are at once whimsical and mesmerizing. Braided, molded, brushed, and even melted, hair is layered together to create dynamic artwork that radiates energy.
Her fascination with hair began as a child when she saw her grandmother store one of her cut-off braids in a drawer. Later, it became a way for her to explore a medium that is beautiful and comforting, yet can also spark disgust. “I find it fascinating that we have this forever changing ‘vegetation’ all over our bodies, which we have to groom and tame,” Shoplifter shared with Infringe. “Hair is a remnant of the wildness that we possess, and one of the few things that survives our existence. It’s like a shield, or alternatively it can be a way of showing yourself to the world.”
Shoplifter, who has collaborated with Björk in the past, brings whimsy and humor to her work. Her large-scale Nervescape installations see vibrant tufts of hair used to create an environment that she hopes embraces visitors. Seeing the work as a world of imaginary nerve endings, for Shoplifter the pieces are both a reflection of our internal landscape and also a fantasy meant to provide a means of escape. This playfulness is a call to remember our youth and to push positive energy into the world.
Big opportunities continue to come Shoplifter’s way. In 2019, she will represent Iceland in the Venice Biennale. The world will be waiting anxiously to see what she creates given this huge international platform.