Sheena Liam, a.k.a. Times New Romance, is a Malaysian-born embroidery artist and model. She was featured in 2018 and 2020 in respective solo and group exhibitions at the Item Gallery Paris. She is also the season two winner of Asia’s Next Top Model.
Her work features feminine figures—many of which are self-portraits based on her own modelling photos. Combining these two art forms and disciplines, Liam explains on her website that “in a strange way modeling parallels my art in the sense I often have to use body language as means of expressing a certain sort of mood. It's no different from my embroideries.”
Why a focus on hair? Liam tells Teen Vogue in an interview that frankly, in the beginning, “the hair was always more to accentuate movement or to bring a certain sort of soul to the pieces.” Eventually, however, this motif naturally led to an exploration of the self and womanhood.
What kind of roles do hair, beauty and hegemonic beauty standards hold in women today? These questions are highlighted when we consider the particularly loaded nature of the topic of hair for BIPOC women. We take, for example, the injustices surrounding black women being discriminated against in the workplace for wearing their natural hair. In connection with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities, Liam’s work is perhaps a window into these conversations about hair, identity and inequalities.
Liam's embroideries have clean, drawing-like lines, and yet, there is a sculptural quality as her intricately arranged strands of hair come alive from the flat cloth. This, combined with intimate, emotional poses which capture the motions of the everyday, perhaps subtly conveys a defiant form of self-expression.