Robbie Kaye: Beauty and Wisdom
Robbie Kaye has created a wonderful series that combines two things that women aspire to: Beauty and Wisdom. Her subjects, all women over the age of 70, have plenty of both. Robbie has traveled abound America, visiting classic beauty salons in order to witness the traditions of our mother’s generation, where elegance and grooming were and are a weekly ritual. What Robbie has learned, is that these salons are not just places of business, but loving and supportive communities that celebrate wise women. On March 20th, Robbie opens a solo exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Boston (with an opening on March 27th) and also recently announced her monograph under the same title, Beauty and Wisdom.As many baby boomers age, rituals from their mothers and grandmothers fade. Beauty & Wisdom documents a fast-disappearing part of Americana and the diminishing population of mature women who have been going regularly to the beauty parlor once a week-not as a luxury but as a necessity-for most of their adult years. This project explores the grace and courage in which these women age in a society so heavily focused on the beauty of youth. Ironically, these are the women who opened doors for future generations of women to walk through, yet they are now part of an invisible generation.
The women, 70 and above, from Beauty & Wisdom live in a culture where the beauty of youth is hugely valued but the beauty of age is often ignored. In the beauty parlors across America, this fading generation of women share their humor and wisdom, as I learned in New Orleans when Mrs. Guste, 88, who lost every piece of her jewelry when her house was looted during Hurricane Katrina, reminded me, “everything is borrowed and when it goes away, it’s time to give it back.”The Beauty & Wisdom project provided insight into my own future. As I photographed these golden ladies and listened in on their conversations with their hairdressers and looked into their eyes, I saw the kind of courage that comes from embracing life fully without expectations, except to be happy and connected to people. There was not an ounce of shame present – maybe shyness, but no shame. Their “take me as I am” attitude has given me, a woman who just turned 50, permission to age fearlessly with no regrets and reasons to look forward to my own aging process. These women may be invisible to many, but they are quite visible to me.
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