Posted on March 10, 2015 by Karuna Krishna
On Locust Street in Philadelphia, you see passersby stare curiously at a window with arresting sculptures and a sign, Julius Scissor Hair Salon. Past these Dali meets Duchamp assemblages, Julius is on display, shaping hair.
Julius is a master hair artist. His station is a theater, with spotlights on the chair, where he performs. “Everyone is beautiful,” he says, “I want to bring it out.” An old Philadelphia tradition, he opened the salon in 1980. Not unlike the barbershops of old, it is a place to meet an eclectic, urban cast of Center City residents.
“Everything changes when you hear that your daughter has cancer,” says Julius, talking about his life. His daughter battled ovarian cancer for eight years, and lost. Her photo looks back at him from the mirror. His wife, Marsha, ran the salon but is at home now, with cancer. Julius handles the Salon and still manages to care for Marsha at home. “The only way to live life,” he says, “is to live it.” He reflects, “I choose to be happy. I live life each day.”
A self-taught artist, Julius’s art and sculpture frequently incorporate hair and scissors — literally. “Scissors on faces is an obsession,” he confesses. “The Scissor Man can withstand anything,” he says, striking a warrior pose with the mask he painted yesterday. Best known for his 1980’s Ronald Regan sculpture, the same whimsical, quirky humor animates the dizzying amount of art displayed in the salon.
Julius transmutes tragedy to laughter and his work to art. Much of his art is ephemeral. During the shoot, he cuts my hair and as I look at myself, I see the way I feel.
Photography and Text by Karuna Krishna, Copyright 2015
About the Author: Karuna Krishna is the director of Creative Services, Marketing Communications at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.