This week has been exciting and busy, and I feel like I’m almost experiencing a full circle moment in my blogging career. In 2013, I wrote a blog post about Black Beauty History, focusing on these products of yore — click here to check that out.
Back in 2013, I did a lot of online research but ultimately didn’t uncover the treasure trove of information I had hoped to find. But right now – until August 2, so HURRY if you’re interested in black beauty history – there’s a phenomenal exhibit on display at the Chicago Cultural Center titled Love For Sale: The Graphic Art of Valmor Products. The exhibition reveals the roots of Valmor as a beauty brand, as well as its development of products for magical and occult purposes. Brand creator Morton Neumann believed in the power of love and luck, and his products made bold promises to the consumer. It’s amazing to see the tiny product labels of yore, blown up to such magnified size, curated as an exhibit that spans from the company’s earliest origins to an explanation of how things ended.
The exhibit is curated by the delightful and informative historian Tim Samuelson. This weekend, the Chicago Cultural Center will host a symposium around the exhibit, titled Race, Magic, Mojo: Explorations of Culture, Identity and Spirituality. And yours truly will participate in a panel called Watu Wazuri/Beautiful People: African-American Hairdressing and Beauty as Social Meaning and Style on Friday evening from 6 to 8 pm. Click here to RSVP to this FREE event via Facebook. I hope you can come out and support!
I’ll be speaking alongside a truly impressive selection of artists and academics, and the symposium continues Saturday with additional panels and a gallery talk with Tim Samuelson. I went to his gallery talk last weekend and so thoroughly enjoyed learning about this exhibit. Check out what I experienced!
As mentioned in my 2013 post, Charles C. Dawson did much of the artwork but received little of the credit for Valmor Products labels. In this exhibit, Dawson’s work shines. The work of several other significant African American artists is also given great recognition and much deserved respect.
Dawson had a particular style of depicting the Valmor aesthetic ideal – many of their products did hinge on straight, glossy hair (note the highlights on their heads) and skin lightening – so many Valmor products were aimed at brightening, whitening, and cleansing, always with the hint of potential love and romance awaiting the woman who used them.
If you’ve ever wondered what African American used to beautify themselves back in the teens and twenties, this may well be it. Valmor products were sold in catalogs and via door to door salesmen.
Valmor wigs and ads like these became popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. You’ll notice the wigs are named after celebrities of the era – The Leslie, The Melba, the Diana etc.
Many of Valmor’s earlier products centered around luck, love and happiness.
Beauty was only part of Valmor’s business, they also made a variety of incense powders and potions that promised luck, spiritual power and magical influence.
Two amazing exhibits, totally worth checking out. Both exhibits close in August. Check them out at the Chicago Cultural Center while you can. Hope to see you on Friday!