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It’s Fun To Be Vain

There’s some ridiculous study out there claiming people with easy to pronounce names are more likely to succeed. Evidently, the likability of something is in direct correlation to its comprehensibility.

 Wait…whut. No comprendo.

 If there is any truth to these scientifically based findings, then there’s no hope for mixed media artist Hranfnildur Arnardottir. With a name like that, Arnardottir will be voted least likely to succeed in just about everything.

 But in the world of art, where success is an exception and not the rule, she’s mostly been the exception.

 So how does Arnardottir do it?

 “I don’t limit myself.”

 The artist/performer/mom simultaneously breaks all the rules while replacing them with her own. She is the exception to the rule.

 

RULE #1: ASSUME AN ALTER EGO

REPLACE IT WITH: FIND THE HUMOR IN AN ALTER EGO

 Arnardottir is more publicly known as Shoplifter—a comical yet somehow appropriate mispronunciation of the artist’s first name, Hrafnhildur (APN-vilder).

“I saw the humor in (the mispronunciation of my name) and how people remember my real name,” Shoplifter admits with a slight Nordic accent. I can hear the smile over the phone. And although I’ve never met her in person, she gives me the impression she would be the really, really cool aunt you tell your secrets to.

 

“I just learned not to take myself too seriously. My pseudoname [sic] allowed myself to free up a little bit and be more experimental. It’s almost an alter ego.”

 

RULE #2: MOVE TO NEW YORK CITY

REPLACE IT WITH: MOVE TO A CITY THAT INSPIRES YOU

 

Born in Reykjavik, Icelandin 1969 (which explains why her name ties one’s tongue in knots), Shoplifter moved to New York, where everyone is continually moving, creating, living, and breathing, and she’s been doing all of those things for nearly twenty years from her Brooklyn apartment in Greenpoint.

 

“I always felt that in New York, there was a possibility for more freedom. I envisioned myself in black and white in Europe. But when I imagined living in New York, I saw myself in color. It just makes sense for me to live here.”

 

RULE #3: CREATE A PERSONAL BRAND

REPLACE IT WITH: ASSOCIATE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND WITH

YOUR ROOTS

 

It just makes sense, because as an artist, designer, and performer, where else would she be, really, other than the City of Dreams?

 

And in the City of Dreams, where everyone thinks their dream is the dream, Shoplifter found a niche that would make her dream a reality.

 

“It’s tough,” “Shoppy” divulges. “You have to be a little stubborn to do what you want to do. You get the wind in your face; you’ve got to keep at it to make it work.”

 

And after making it through the wind tunnel, she emerged somewhat notorious among the hair fetishists of the world. Just kidding. Sort of. A trichophiliac would certainly get err…titillated from perusing her work. The artist is most famous for her work with hair, both the synthetic and human varieties.

 

“I’m not only working with hair, but it has become popular,” Shoplifter admits. “It’s a fascinating medium for me.”

 

And it’s easy to see why. Sculptures and haute couture gowns knitted, woven, or braided (almost) entirely of hair is different, avant-garde. Each of her pieces is like falling down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe of…well, hair: fluffy cotton candy hills and feathered stalagmites reaching for a braided sky. It’s dreamy and hallucinatory—a phantasmagorical eruption of self-discovery and self-absorption.

 

“A lot of my work is about humanity and fantasy,” Shoplifter explains after I mention that there seem to be common cultural themes in her pieces: a mixture of ethereal beauty, high fashion, and vanity.

 

Shoplifter’s work forces the viewer to confront one’s ego, for buried deep within the ruff are questions dealing with personal identity and hypocrisy. Each piece subtly critiques a world consumed with narcissism—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because self-love is love nonetheless and we could all use a little more love…right? It may be naïve, but that’s what makes Shoppy’s work so charming. She’s playful and silly, yet somehow weaves the simple desire for beauty throughout her handicraft.

 

“We all have to deal with our hair and we are constantly trying to contain it. My work is an ode to Scandinavian textiles and working with the threads and fiber to create necessary things and beautiful things. [Scandinavians] have been known to use hair for survival when nothing else was available. I was intrigued by that because when hair is detached from the body it’s disgusting.”

 

I’m thinking about cleaning the hair out of my shower drain, and I’m gagging over my morning coffee. But taking a look at the artist’s most recent installation, displayed at the Summer Solstice Reyka event on the rooftop of King & Grove in Williamsburg, hair is the most beautiful thing on earth. I want to eat it and roll around and play in it.

 

The installation was an homage to the foundation of all life, both beautiful and ugly: the sun.

 

Celebrated on June 21st, the holiday Reyka marks the beginning of summer and the longest day of the year. It has a rich history rooted in Scandinavian culture, which is another reason why Shoplifter was drawn to working on the project. That and the vodka. Again, kidding. Sort of.

 

“I wanted to recreate something intrinsic with Iceland and its culture,” Shoppy explains. “The sun became the focal point of the entire event. It just makes sense to have the presence of the sculpture made out of neon hair; there’s a presence and energy in a ball of fire. It’s euphoric and there’s just so much energy from having the sun out all the time. People coming together and drinking and partying into the night.”

RULE #4: KNOW SOMEONE FAMOUS

REPLACE IT WITH: COLLABORATE WITH SOMEONE

Shoplifter has had installations all around the world (“I’ve lived in a trailer for a PS1 MOMA colony project and I’ve had a solo exhibition in a gallery in London”) and she’s collaborated with a number of famous artists and designers, the most notable of which include Victoria Bartlett’s fashion label, VPL, and Shoppy’s singer/songwriter counterpart,Björk, on multiple occasions.

Confession: I listened to Björk while flipping through an archive of Shoppy’s past work before sitting down to encapsulate her life and soul. The combination of my three cups of iced coffee, neon-colored and pastel-tinted hair, and Björk’s surrealist notes wafting in the background made for the most beautiful alien abduction scene. It was kind of like reading a Jane Austen novel from the future where cyborgs fall in and out of love and Sigmund Freud psychoanalyzes the blend of conscious, unconscious, and self-conscious love-making.

“It’s very high profile,” Shoppy says about joining forces with a musician with a Twitter following of 458,348. “It’s fascinating because I’m inspired by identity and vanity and pop culture.”

Which makes sense because our hair is a large part of our individuality and pride. We have the option to tame it, grow it, dye it, brush it, tease it. It’s an extension of our identity that allows us to distinguish ourselves from one another.

 

Her art, her livelihood, her collaborations—whether in fashion, music, or with other visual artists—feed Shoppy’s inner animal. They may satiate her appetite for a while, but she will always be on the hunt for more.

 

“A collaboration is about finding new ways to do something creative in the collective and I like that—to get into another’s head.”

 

It’s a classic case of putting things into perspective. Shoplifter is continually experiencing identity growth, whether it be through her original pieces, or teaming up with other artists. She thrives on creating and sharing the beautiful with the ugly—a sweet juxtaposition she can achieve only by working with an ugly medium to make a beautiful piece of art. Her work has collided with reality to form a personal concept of opposites, extremes, and exploring other worlds, even if it’s just the one in her own head. 

 

So sure, maybe John will get promoted before Caoimhe (KEE-Vah), merely because his supervisor can pronounce his name without looking up the pronunciation.

 

But Hrafnihildur Arnadottier, or Shoplifter, or whatever you want to call her (Hair Girl? Trich Bitch?) is a success no matter what her name is.

 

Because sometimes, you can’t always believe everything you read on the Internet. (Oh the irony!) But just in case you don’t believe me, do a bit of your own digging.

 

 

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