CONFRONTED WITH HAIR LOSS, PHILIP LEVINE USES HIS HEAD TO EXPRESS CREATIVITY.
Philip Levine reacted to the fact that he was balding in a unique way. In 2006 he teamed up with professional body painter Kat Sinclair so that he could use his bald head to express his creativity. Levine and Sinclair have since developed numerous amazing head designs that are boldly original and will be exhibited in a gallery show of 100 head designs in May 2011.
“I am a cultural entrepreneur,” Levine says when asked to talk about himself and his work. “Beyond using my head as a canvas, I run a creative agency, support fashion designer Ada Zanditon in her label, have an arts label called Lazy Gramophone and run a club night called Musicalifragilistic. I have always supported others in their creativity, and this seems the most natural thing for me. In life I have learned you just have to keep going and not give up.”
Levine started losing his hair in his early 20s. “I knew it was inevitable,” he says. “My father and grandfather are both bald. I didn’t mind so much; I just promised myself I wouldn’t let my hairstyle reach that ‘in-between’ look and would just shave it all off when it got to a certain point. I think my decision was made when my hair started receding at the front.”
That was when he decided to use his head as a canvas. “For some reason, I just didn’t want to shave it and think that was it for the rest of my life. I wanted to express something. So I researched a little and looked for a body painter.” He found a partner in Sinclair, who he says is “one of the best body painters around, and I hope she is acknowledged as this officially one day.” Together, they created the first design, a simple black-and-silver stripe pattern.
Levine felt comfortable with his decision from the start. “It just felt natural,” he explains. “I was hooked when I looked in that mirror and saw what I could do. I almost wanted to do more designs instantly because I knew more amazing ones could be done.”
Inspiring those who suffer from hair loss
“My parents just thought it was a ‘faze.’ I don’t really know what my friends thought. They might have thought it was some fun thing Phil’s doing at the time. It has only recently become a serious part of my life. Before then it was just playful and organic.”
“Now I am just enthused by it all. I seem to be inspiring people who suffer from balding and also just the regular public, so I want to push the boundaries of where no bald person has gone before.”
Levine has received a great deal of positive feedback on his work, such as this e-mail from an art student:
“I’ve just discovered your work via a friend on the Internet. What an absolutely fantastic idea: creating positivity out of something that so many men fear, experience and hate about their appearance. A best friend of mine, 25, has been losing his hair since he was 16, and I hear the heartbreak and dent in his confidence it has had. Congratulations on all your hard work and what you have achieved; your designs are truly brilliant. I’m certain your support will help many young men cope with what may seem a weakness, but in reality makes us all so much more open-minded.”
Levine’s process for creating a head design involves taking an idea and discussing it with Sinclair until the potential image is clear. “After four years she knows my head well,” Levine says. “The only prep work for my scalp is to clean shave it. As much as it is bald on top, it still has hair around the sides.” Applying the design can take anywhere from one to five hours. The artwork is very transient, lasting two days if Levine is lucky. “Most are just one day, and in some cases just a few hours.”
Levine’s future plans include making head designs for musical artists, creating a range of accessories for the hair loss community and “even starting a salon for bald people.”
“Embrace Your Baldness”
For those who are uncomfortable with their hair loss, Levine’s advice is to “just embrace your baldness. If you are not comfortable doing what I do, then just know that in today’s society you don’t get judged that much more than anyone else. Learn to feel comfortable being bald. I would say cut your hair short and just know that you are still the same person at the end of it all. It is not a weakness — it is a strength.”
Even when things can sometimes be rough, Levine stays optimistic. “I always say just keep going and believe in yourself. I want to inspire men and women who are bald by showing them you can be a little outrageous but sophisticated with your baldness and use it to your advantage.”