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Born in New York in 1978, Melanie Bilenker is an American artist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who translates the historic art of Victorian memorial hair jewelry into work that reflects upon the contemporary era. Instead of implementing the traditional decorative motifs of curls, plaits, and flowers, she depicts ordinary moments of everyday life through self portrait scenes “drawn” in her own hair and set in gold and silver.

Bilenker received a BFA in Crafts and Jewelry from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and maintains a studio at the JV Collective, a collaborative jewelry workspace. Bilenker’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions and can be found in numerous public collections : the Donna Schneier Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Racine Art Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery.


Using a drawing technique inspired by historic hairwork, I glue individual strands to paper in an attempt to preserve and show fleeting time so that it can be revisited. I aim for authenticity, to make an image look the way it feels. Hair represents a person, intimacy, a moment left behind, something shed.