September 7 - October 12, 2017
Rush Arts Gallery
526 W 26th St # 311
New York, NY 10001
Hours: Wed - Sat 12-6 pm
(212) 691-9552
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Tenderheaded is the debut solo exhibition of Rush Artist in Residence, Pamela Council. This thematic, multi-media experience features new works from multiple ongoing series, including the Velvets, Ring Holders, and Fountains. The works on display consider the interplay between private and public space, architecture and domestic life. Tenderheaded is on view at Rush Arts Gallery September 7 – October 12, 2017. 

Describing the exhibition’s title and theme, Pamela Council states, “To be a ‘tenderheaded’ girl means having such a sensitivity to the experience of having one’s hair combed as to be stigmatized for it. Tenderheaded girls are the ones for whom the pain of beauty, especially when receiving those braided and tightly pulled ‘protective styles,’ can be overwhelming.” Council explores precious objects and wields materials with this sensitivity in mind. In sculptures, installations, paintings, and prints she re-contextualizes familiar materials, particularly those nostalgic ones that resonate with the notion of “Black Girl Magic” and those which she calls “self-soothing.” Embedded in these works you will find samplings of velvet, sneaker rubber, crack pipes, incense, soap, sex toys, lotion, plastic pony beads, toys, blankets, and flotation devices, among other objects. Each one carries its own cultural history and is imbued with new meaning through the artist’s touch, manipulation, and language.

Hanging from a giant safety pin, a shampoo hat’s pink ruffle is the backdrop for a life-saver shaped layering of items: a 5-finger engagement ring display, a floral foam ring, and a hair donut. This piece is called Lifesaver, and in it are many of the themes that Council’s sculptural works in Tenderheaded explore: the protection of children, the ritual of protective hairstyling, acts of care and tending, gardens, staying afloat, and gendered rites of passage.

A major Velvet installation, hung up by toys and sneaker rubber, anchors the space. A patchwork of silk velvet panels, custom printed satin sleep scarves, and hand-me-down blankets span the gallery. Burned out of the nap of the velvet’s surface is an original text that remixes Beyoncé and Keith Sweat songs and confronts the viewer from the perspective of a hyper-sexualized young girl: “I may be young but you’re ready.” Council’s Velvets are a product of catharsis through play with self-soothing and comfort materials, centered around devoré (burned out) velvet with text and patterns. The artist likens the devoré process to tracing trauma lines in fabric and picking scabs after a bad hair relaxer.

The exhibition itself is designed like a small garden that must be navigated in order to confront the multiple bodies of work. The garden is filled with the fragrance of Luster’s Pink Oil Moisturizer Hair Lotion and the sound of pony beads trickling, each occupying a fountain hidden behind a Hedge. Pink Lotion cascades in a touch of nostalgic Americana, which may require a trigger warning for the truly tenderheaded. Luster’s is a Black-owned hair product manufacturer based in Chicago, and in the fountain sculpture Tenderheaded, Council highlights the role of one of their signature products in the domestic ritual of creating protective styles for young girls. Council’s other fountain honoring protective styles is Fountain of Your Youth, in which pony beads flow like water, exploring Venus Williams’ 1999 “bead incident” and the face-smacking beaded styles of black girlhood, mostly created between a caretaker’s legs.

Honoring women as cultural and material producers is a key consideration of Council’s presentation. Relief, silicone relief tiles in the form of sneaker outsoles, and Let Go Byes Be Go Byes, a conveyor belt sculpture painted in hues of pink, draws on the artist’s memories of working in sneaker factories.

Alongside these works are sculptures from the Ringholders series—a series of small, surrealist fleshy sculptures composed of doll-makers’ clay and craft items mounted on engagement ring displays. Tenderheaded is a sensitive, material-driven walk through the ages.

Rush Arts Gallery is located at 526 W 26th St Suite 311, New York, NY 10001. Gallery hours are Wed. – Sat. 12-6pm. For further questions about this exhibition please contact Charlotte Mouquin at


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