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Salt Lake photographer Cat Palmer was sitting in her booth at the downtown farmers market this summer when a woman walked by with a shaved head.

"I started thinking about how much value and self-worth that we as women put into our hair," said Palmer, who won Best in Show in the Utah Arts Festival in 2009. "I saw the girl again and asked her if she would like to participate in an art shoot."

Palmer found 10 more women — from conservative executives to tattooed liberals — who were already bald or were willing to buzz their locks for the project.

The result is "Age of Aesthetics," a collection of photographs that will be on display at the Hive Gallery in Trolley Square. The show begins Friday, Nov. 19, as part of the monthly gallery stroll, and will remain on display into December.

"These women are confident, smart and beautiful and you can see that," Palmer said. "I want to convey that you can feel beautiful without hair because beauty comes from the inside."

Along with the individual and group shots, Palmer — who also shaved her head during the shoot — asked the women to answer six questions about themselves. Their answers will be part of the exhibit.

Palmer took the photos during a four-hour session at Elemente Furniture, 353 Pierpont Ave., Salt Lake City. Paula J. Dahlberg, who has been in the beauty industry for 18 years, did all the makeup and was one of the models.

"My hair was short to begin with," Dahlberg said. "I'm way into empowering women. And being a hairdresser, I see so many women identify who they are depending on their style of hair."

The woman at the park who sparked the idea for the project was 19-year-old Alexandra Yost, a student at the University of Utah.

"I started shaving my head in May," Yost said. "Cat kept running into me at various gallery strolls, festivals and the farmers market and told me how much she loved it and wanted to get a bunch of women to shave their hair for a project."

A shaved head "opens people up to you," said Yost. "People will tell you their stories — for example, women who have lost their hair to cancer."

Joey Behrens, a painter and printmaker, started shaving her head when she was about 12.

"Shaving my head was a way to publicly proclaim my strength and independence, to reject ideas about how a woman should look — and therefore act — and what it is to be a woman," she said.

"Hair doesn't really mean anything to me — although I do like it, I like how it feels — but I'm very aware that often it means something to others."

Nicole Beal cut her hair short this summer for a trip to Europe, because she didn't want to travel with a hair dryer. She found it liberating.

"It will be nice to not have to use product and get all styled up in the morning," she said. "Also, I am still me, regardless of my hair." —

Age of Aesthetics

When » Friday, Nov. 19, Gallery Stroll through part of December.

Where » The Hive Gallery in Trolley Square, 600 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City. The gallery is on the second floor.

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