Does She or Doesn’t She, one of the most famous advertising lines of all time, was the brainchild of the brilliant early adwoman Shirley Polykoff. It’s also the title of Melissa Stern’s exhibition at Firecat Projects in Chicago. Polykoff succeeded in selling oodles of Miss Clairol home hair-coloring kits to American women, whereas Stern wishes instead to consider the ramifications of so much attention paid to the dead cells growing out of our heads. The show includes a wall of droll little pencil and watercolor portraits of awkward girls whose beehives make it clear they’re from another time; a couple of larger, angry self-portraits of a kid whose curly hair was nothing like her classmates’ straight locks; and a terrifically sad young Muppet tenderly sculpted from clay and topped with ridiculous pink curlers and a silly green wood nose. You feel for her, for all of them, for all of us, really, and the lengths they’ve gone to, still go to, to present themselves, ourselves, just right.
—Lori Waxman 2021-01-11 10:52 AM