At first glance, Frank Hyder’s giant, inflatable sculptures inspire a modicum of fear; towering over you at ten feet tall, the colorful, two-faced heads immediately demand your attention and your respect. But peer at their brightly painted features long enough and you’re likely left with a smile on your face—a realization that these heads instead beg playfulness and tolerance.
Hyder’s Janis Project took root in 2015 when, following a residency in the South Pacific, he traveled to Easter Island and encountered the gargantuan Moai heads for which the island is known. Enamored by the idea of in-your-face art (especially sculpture), Hyder took to making giant heads of his own, but with one key difference from his Moai muses: his sculptures were intended to travel the globe, challenging the conventional idea that quality art can only be seen in museums.
The Janis heads have since made their way to Africa, parts of Asia, the coast of Europe from Istanbul to St. Petersburg, and North, South, and Central America. Prior to making their appearance in the Village this June, the Janis Project was on view at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
Each head is adorned with two distinct colors of face paint and varying accessories, ensuring that no two faces are quite the same; rather, each takes on its own expression of personality, a design choice that, according to Hyder, is intended to resonate with our own individualities.
“Everybody paints their face in one way or another,” Hyder says, “and often times our paint marks reflect cultural backgrounds, influences, experiences, and sometimes trauma—all of it manifests in the image we present to the world.”
Made of the same material from which lifeboats are constructed, the Janis heads are built to endure the challenging weather conditions that sometimes come with world travel. Having withstood winds, torrential downpours, and even snow, Hyder says that touching the pieces will certainly not cause them any harm. In fact, he warmly welcomes interaction with the heads.
Frank Hyder’s Janis Project is on view at Peddler’s Village from June 1-23 as part of Art in the Village.