the selves

Sonja Ahlers' new book is coming out on June 8th and I wanted to share some pages from The Selves in advance of the release date and of the Toronto book launch. There will be an exhibition at Magic Pony until the 25th of May, and an opening reception tomorrow from 6 to 9. So much good news.

I'm really excited to see The Selves in person -- looking at it on the screen, I found myself gasping. Spike from Degrassi, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Heart, VC Andrews books, teen novels: things that have bewitched my life from the time that I was very young until now, all inverted and made a bit spooky. Sonja is a genius, basically.

Before blogs, there were zines. Before zines, there were scrapbooks. Sometimes overlooked in the quest to produce high culture, these most direct and intimate means of communication and recording memory are the tools favoured by Sonja Ahlers in the making of her art.

A self-taught artist and writer, Ahlers wears her pop culture obsessions on her sleeve, professing her love for such visual icons as Princess Di, Holly Hobbie and Stevie Nicks. Focusing on found objects such as stickers, greeting cards, magazine photos collected in collage framework, complete with song lyrics hand-lettered in cursive script and heartbreaking, melancholic water colors, Ahlers explores and exposes the social construction of roles, feminine and otherwise. Beginning with incipient childhood self-awareness and traversing high school status jockeying to adult social climbing, the cultural imagery that supports and informs personal identity is given uneasy new meanings and importance in Ahlers' visual remixes. With The Selves, the schizophrenic nature of an identity foraged from modern cultural sources is laid bare.


Elizabeth Johnson: Apparently taking pre-natal vitamins will help your hair to grow fast, but I've always felt a little funny about taking those just for that. Good luck with your hair progress!

carolyn: Yes, that seems to be a recurring theme! Everyone wants what she doesn't have. Oh dear.

Kristien: Oh, thanks! That is very sweet. I guess I look at myself every day and daydream and wish things were different... About the coconut oil: I wonder if you can store it in the fridge? I think too that it can be a matter of finding out what quality works best for you, as you said. I think I've changed my mind about bleaching my hair -- so many horror stories!

belle: I hope you like it!

erica: I like your hair! But I know how it feels to feel post-haircut regret. I do find it consolling to think that, at least, it is not a limited resource and will eventually come back. I've heard that coconut oil is good for skin but I have yet to try it! I should.

birch and sycamore: Oh, I love the sounds of those curls! I wish I were more patient and willing to experiment. I'm pretty tired of straightening my hair all the time. It's so boring.

PetSugar: Thank you, I'm glad you liked it.

erin / atlantictreefox: Oh wow! That sounds pretty crazy. My hair doesn't tangle too bad. I guess that has to do with how fine or thick it is? I have pretty bad flyaways too. At Aveda they recommend smoothing lotions and such to tame them. I would just use coconut oil but I don't want it to get near the roots of my hair and that's where my flyaways all seem to be. I don't mind them, though.

white mice: I haven't heard of that one. Maybe I'll look into it. Thank you -- I think I'll stick with the dark colour for a while longer. It just seems like so much trouble to keep up with lighter hair.

lavelle: I do too! The funny thing is that I have long wavy locks -- just not the exact ones I want! Ha.

thegirlworks: I actually had the coconut oil originally for making vegan, gluten-free cupcakes! I didn't even know what it was before then.

kater: I love your hair! I can't believe yours got that long -- it must have gotten caught on so many things! Sometimes Geoff will accidentally put his elbow on my hair. That's fun. A cat eating out of a can in the park, on its own? That's so funny! I just remembered that I haven't yet received my kitty ring! Something to look forward to.

ilovesasek: I know, the cute girls with the cute haircuts! It makes us think and do crazy things, instead of feeling happy with what we already have. I was thinking about the hair donation thing recently because of the oil spill in the Gulf -- hair is the best way to soak it up! My hair is actually quite split and dry in parts (mostly at the tips of the layers that are growing out) -- luckily that doesn't show up in photos! I have worn a blonde wig in the past (karaoke is fun in wigs) but I seem to have lost it.

juste venteux: I hope it works for you! Just remember that sometimes it takes a few tries before you find something that works. Everyone's hair is different!

Elena R.: Strawberry blonde is nice, I wish I could pull that off.

Carolyn M: You know, after hearing a lot about bleaching, I don't think I want to do it anymore! A friend told me she had to sit with the bleach on her head for three hours -- and I'm just not able to sit still for that long without going a little crazy! But thank you for all the advice. It sounds a little bit fun and a little bit alluring, but I don't know if it's for me.

tara-lynn: I can't wait to see your hair bright red! I bet it's going to look amazing! I'm also glad you found a coco technique that works for you.

jen: Oh no! But that actually sounds kind of hot? Haha! I think maybe I do need some sort of change, or just embrace it as is, because it really is nice (not to brag or nothin', but it's a nice colour and having thick hair is actually a good thing!).

Mallory: I hope you like it, if you try it!

darcy;: Oh yes, the layers. They are the worst! I look back at pictures of me from a few years ago with all those layers framing my face and think they weren't that far off from The Rachel! Ew. Good luck with the coconut oil, if you try it!

fraisedesbois: I have thought about it a little more and I'm not sure I want to do it. I seem to have become happy with my hair colour again, and I don't want to have to sit with bleach on my head for hours, plus the maintenance... I guess it was just a whim! I get my coconut oil at the health food store! Places like Whole Foods should have it.

rosalyn: Not sure if I will actually go through the dye job! I've never had hair that is much lighter... just various shades of red. '90s red. I hope you find that coconut oil works for you. If it doesn't, you can bake with it!

MissQuiteContrary: Thank you! I think I've come around to appreciating it again. I'm so funny like that. I have investigated the no shampoo methods but I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far. I like washing my hair with soap! It does something psychologically, makes me feel thoroughly clean! Oh, I really like Julie Doiron, so thank you.

K.: Maybe having the same haircut forever is a good thing! Maybe that's how we should approach it. A signature style is not something that a lot of people have. I hope you try the coconut oil and like it. It sounds like your hair is nearly the same as mine.

dagmara: It's true, I have tons of hair, and I leave some behind almost everywhere I go. I don't really use it in place of conditioner exactly -- I apply a very thin coat of it after my hair is already dry. My hair doesn't get too tangled after shampooing. I tend to comb it when it's wet, very gently. I guess my hair doesn't tangle too easily. I generally don't like conditioner and the way it leaves my hair feeling slightly dirty. For deep conditioning I do rinse the coco out with shampoo, but it's soft and not tangled afterwards.

Min: It's funny about how men seem to love long hair -- my father wouldn't let me cut my hair when I was little! And he always used to talk about how my mother once had long hair that he loved.

april: I've already decided against it! Too much money and trouble! Good luck with yours!

diarte: Yes, we sure do all have hair dilemmas! I feel like almost every comment on this post describes a new one!

theowlsarenotwhattheyseem: Yes, I do love dirty blonde. I've always loved the sound of it, even when I was a kid -- I was jealous of people who got to call themselves dirty blondes. I hope you enjoy the coconut oil in your hair! Oh, that does sound like something fun to experiment with.

Pocahondas: Thanks -- I wish I had taken them!

erica-knits: I'm glad it worked for you. I think I'm going to try it every few weeks. It feels a little like a spa treatment! The trip was perfect -- I'll post pictures soon!

Little Nutbrown Hare: I'm glad I'm not alone. I don't like what it does to my hair! I hope that you will like the coconut oil, if you try it!

B: Hmm. I think sometimes it takes a few tries to find something that works for you, since everyone is different. It didn't work like a charm for me right away, but it certainly feels better in a psychological way -- I'm not harming my hair, my hair looks good, no chemicals or expensive products involved.

Maya Tara Credico: It definitely sounds that way to me!

ambika: I hope you like it, if you try it! I really don't like conditioner at all.

Eli: Good luck with growing out your hair!

Every Little Counts: It's for sure not for everyone, and thank goodness for that! I wish I could pull off the Mia Farrow!

Bekväm: Aw wow, that's so nice! Haha maybe in person it wouldn't look so awesome. I know how you feel -- I was just looking at my driver's license and I had clearly trimmed my bangs myself the week I renewed it. They look so terrible!

Britta: Thank you very much! I hope you get a happy haircut!

Saoirse: Thank you! I used to think I couldn't pull of bangs but now I think they're great for me. So you never know! If you wanted to do a swap, send me an email and we can chat! That could be fun.

shin ae: Thank you. It's not so bad, I know. Good luck with growing out your hair! Maybe you could take prenatal vitamins, ha.

Pearl: I love the pixie cut! I really do wish it was something I could try -- but I know it would be very wrong for me. Good luck to you as well!

danielle and dinosaur toes: That's funny! My hair has seemed to get really long in a really short period of time -- although for me it could be because I'm not having layers cut into it anymore. Thank you for saying you like my hair! I had a bad "blue black" incident about ten years ago. It really was too, too dark.

tywo: Thank you!

Tess: Oh, I know! I am not willing to spend too much time or money on my hair. I like it au naturel as much as possible! Although I do straighten it a few times per week. I hope you like the coconut oil!

the snail and the cyclops: That is absolutely wonderful advice. I have been craving insane amounts of change lately, but it's usually poorly defined and so frustrating -- what to do! A new lipstick sounds like a good plan. Coral would look so nice on you! I'm just convinced that blonde hair is helpful when one has large features... it just smoothes everything out and makes everything jump out less. I don't know. I'm a crack scientist of hair colour. And yes, the cost of it is so prohibitive. Plus the burning, and the time spent... forget it!


  1. I love how you reply to everyones comments. :)

  2. Anonymous12.5.10

    Oh scrapbooks.

    I find it mildly disturbing that making scrapbooks has become this monstrous and saccharine industry churning out paper, patterns, kits, and other objects manufactured specifically for "scrapbooking"? The significance of memorabilia--physical manifestations of (or stand-ins for) memory and experience--really gets lost in the aisles at Michael's (or your favorite big box craft store).

    I love and appreciate that Sonja draws into her collages, works with found images and textures, and hand-letters the pages. It's very cool to see someone updating the medium while staying true to its original spirit--the scrapbook as a living document of memory/ies.

    The "self-taught" part of Sonja's official artist biography feels especially important here. Maybe DIY leaves us open to a catholic array of influences through which to reinvent ways of making art.

  3. Spike from Degrassi?!?!?!

    That's all I wanted to say. Sometimes I forget that you're Canadian, and wonder what Canadians think of Degrassi, or how they perceive the spawn from the Next Generation. Like Aubrey Graham calling himself Drake? I remember when he and Ashley would rap on the show, and I would laugh to myself. I digress.

    Oh, and I also really want to visit Magic Pony. Another cool thing about Canada.