Dejeonge Reese


Untitled: Detail, synthetic hair, fabric and rice, 2024 

Jesus Saves

13x26 inches 2022, synthetic braiding hair and chicken wire

Inspired by the Dogan Kanagu mask. A mask which was worn during funeral ceremonies with a goal to create safe passage of the souls of late family members. The top structure was known to be a symbol the Gods. Hair has been known to be our communication to and from the Gods , as it is the highest point on out bodies. Black hair prior to slavery, represented many things one being an individuals religion. Black hair has also played a roll in churches; many only allowed in if they could pass the comb or brown paper bag test. With this piece, I aimed to intertwine and question the ideals of hair in relation to religion/the church. Thinking of how even today many schools (most Catholic) still have “Eurocentric” grooming policies; thinking of the 2019 case of Jediah Batts. I also thought of how during slavery we only really prepared our hair for church on Sundays; which made me think of Easter Sundays ,even to date. 

10 %

Synthetic braiding hair and chicken wire, 18 x 12  inches, 2022

This mask was inspired by the Senufo mask. The mask was worn by Poro (a mens society) during funeral ceremonies. It was believed the mask not only helped communicate with the deceased but also ward off evil spirits. I was thinking of how hair is believed to be our most direct connection to the Gods and ancestors; being hair is the highest point on you. I have been researching my ancestry DNA and the various African regions that have populated for me; I found that I am 5% Mali and 5% Ivory Coast. The Senufu peeple migrated from Mali to the Ivory Coast around the 15th century.

Elephant Mask

Synthetic braiding hair,2022 

“Code Switching”,2023

“Code Switching”,2023 This wearable dress and matching mask (made from synthetic hair, curlers and a ski-mask) is entitled "In my customer Service Voice '' I was thinking of the history of passing and how it coincides with the idea and act of co-switching in the workplace today. Black women today are 80 % more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or expectations for work.

Since slavery and especially during the Jim Crow era; black people have had to change their appearance and adapt their behavior to fit social norms. Fitting into social norms meant a potential better job, housing and more. Today while there is not as much pressure to alter our appearance for the workplace there are still guidelines in place that work against black people and our natural appearance and behavior.
We are expected to be articulate, to dress neatly in accordance to company guidelines, to speak clearly but in a pleasant tone so we don't not come off angry. We tend to put a mask on everyday to fit the social norms of not just our jobs but also in schools.


Worn Synthetic bariding hair, 2022


When I began my natural hair jounry, I began to research the history of black hair in conjunction with eurocentric body and beauty image standards. Thinking of how much our hair is a part of our identity and how dolls/Barbies are often a girls first depiction of beauty and body image. I wanted to fuse the ideas together. 

 Usually when we take out our protective styles (braids/ twists)  we throw them away, but having worn them for a period of time and thinking of how it can be bad juju if someone else gets a hold of your hair; I played with the idea of turning the hair into a physical object. I wanted to re-think the Barbie doll in the image of me.

I am a visual artist whose passions led me to explore the various facets of identity, specifically the body and beauty ideals. My inspiration is drawn from my identity as a Black woman, especially regarding the past and present discourse surrounding Black hair and beauty expectations. After experiencing scrutiny from loved ones when I started to re-identify myself through my natural hair, I became impacted enough to explore these themes and ideas through my art. I mine these themes through mediums such as mixed media sculpture, installations, and performances. By fusing themes and ideas from both the past and present; my art explores various connotations surrounding black hair and beauty expectations. Therefore; contributing to on-going conversations on cultural identity as African Americans.