Throughout history, people could go to a barber shop for various services: shaves, baths and of course, haircuts.
Visitors to Rinaldo’s Barber Shop, 107 S. Allen St., could also view art at the shop Saturday night when the location was the site of an art exhibiton. Called “Fringe With Benefits,” the reception was made up of seven displays made by eight students of an advanced sculpture class at Penn State. Some involved physical objects and clay. Others took the form of performance and action.
“Sculpture is a really broad term,” said instructor Shannon Goff. “Video can be sculpture and performance can be sculpture.”
All work displayed was barber shop-themed. Senior Preston Van Allen made barber tools, like clippers, a mirror and scissors, out of clay and painted them. Graduate student Nara Strete showcased a piece made of clay and styrofoam that depicted two lab rats pulling each other’s hair out, an act called “barbering.”
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Multicolored bows, made of cut hair acquired at the shop, hung on the far wall. Senior Rosemary Hyp took the hair and turned it into dreadlocks, then colored them and formed them into the bow shapes.
“I’m interested in the line where something disgusting becomes something beautiful,” she said.
The performance-based displays were apparent right away. Visitors were greeted by senior Abby Bosley when they walked in the door. Gallery-goers were seated in barber chairs as Bosley, who minors in makeup and costume design, painted their faces.
A barber shop is a place of transformation through hair, Bosley said. She took a “more literal” approach to the concept of transformations and dressed as a tanuki, a mythological “raccoon-dog” capable of turning itself and others into different animals and objects. For three hours, she “transformed” some people into tigers, dogs and other creatures.
Another work saw two students performing grooming usually done individually, like teeth brushing, hand washing and nail clipping. The idea was to provoke thought about what people are willing to allow others to do for them and what is reserved for the individual, said senior Sidney Mullis. The history of the role of barbers also went into the performance, graduate student Christine Bruening said. Barbers used to perform other tasks besides cutting hair, like shaving customers and pulling teeth.
The class had been looking for a place to hold a show for a few months after exhibition areas on campus became unavailable, Goff said. They asked about other locations downtown and were turned down for liability reasons, she said.
The event came to be at Rinaldo’s when Van Allen, who regularly gets his hair cut at the shop, mentioned the show to owner Becky Durst. Durst, who “loves art,” agreed to host it. The class then tailored its work to reflect the location, Van Allen said.
“You can’t ignore the barber shop atmosphere,” he said.
Durst said she was glad to have the event in the barber shop and hopes it isn’t the last time art is displayed there.
“Anytime someone in the art community wants to use my shop, they can,” she said. “It’s an awesome space.”