The barber combines cuts with his paintings


Jessi Flores has two seemingly different passions in life. It’s about cutting hair and drawing abstract expressionist portraits.

He didn’t think of combining the two until last March when a coronavirus pandemic forced Bellport’s hairdresser to temporarily close.

Today, his South Country Road Emporium, Steel & Velvet, doubles as a showcase of paintings he describes as a “New York street-style expressionist.”

“I basically changed the whole paradigm of what a hairdresser does,” Flores, 42, said among customers. “I changed the whole way of doing it … it looks more like a studio than a hairdresser.”

A self-taught artist said he had always divided his profession even after opening the store in 2010. Then, like many business owners last year, the pandemic changed all the rules, and Flores began to work differently in his life.

Flores said he named his store to reflect the contradictory impulses. “The man of steel, the man of velvet,” he said.

“The pandemic really turned my wheel, and I had to reinvent myself,” Flores said. “I was closed for three months and the fear of COVID kept people away.”

Prior to the pandemic, he had a waiting room for his customers. Since reopening in June, he has been working by appointment.

However, he was worried that the coronavirus case would have to be closed again last fall as the case revived. So Flores refurbished the store and started using it as a studio. Where most hairdressers now have pictures showing trendy hairstyles, Flores has a series of paintings that he describes as “a futuristic cyborg-style self-portrait.”

Frank Kornakiuro, 79, a client at East Patchog, said he was shocked by the makeover when he returned to where he had had his hair trimmed for 10 years.

“When I went there, I didn’t expect it … I thought he was out of business and someone else bought the place,” Kona Kiuro said. “I said this was unbelievable. I knew Jessie, but I didn’t know the man Jessie.”

According to Flores, what his paintings were, such as when he visited a horse farm with his mother and a special on public television that helped him understand what he called “horse dignity.” Inspired by memories of years ago. , I have been studying horse anatomy. “

Other paintings are abstract portraits of humans. He liked working in bright colors and said he created works that seemed to have “movement”.

“Most of it comes from the people I meet,” he said. “I talk to people of all kinds. I receive it from many customers …. Often it comes from childhood. If I channel something from childhood, something from the past. , It has a big impact on me. “

And photography also helps fill in some of the blank space in almost empty spaces, while linking his work with his hobbies.

“I was told by a client. I don’t feel like we’re alone,” Flores said.

Portrait of patience

  • Jessi Flores is currently exhibiting six paintings at the Bellport barber shop Steel & Velvet.
  • “IFuture”. A portrait of a cyborg with one eye in a regular shape and the other in a blue sphere.
  • Untitled. Work in progress. A horse with a mixture of yellow, orange and red. “A lot of movement and texture,” Flores said.
  • Untitled. Work in progress similar to Avatar.
  • Three abstract faces. Paintings, each about 6 feet high, line up on one side of the store. Flores describes them as “cyborg-style futuristic self-portraits.”

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