Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Masks are a "Switch"

As one artist, I’m a group show.  There are many facets to my work because I work in many mediums.  Each facet is like another artist altogether.  They are all me, but they take on separate entities and each concentrates on their own ideas and projects.  One of these artists I work with makes masks. We have been working together for about 15 years.  He was curious about the significance of masks throughout human evolution.  Is there a culture that does not use masks?  The answer is no—every culture uses masks. Then why is the mask so ubiquitous in all cultures?
Masks are ubiquitous because they are the switch—the space between life and art—which evokes the imagination.  We use the on-off switch on the TV.   In the same way, buying a ticket to the theater and sitting quietly in a big dark cavern is the switch that fosters the imagination and allows us to enter into an intimate communion with the artistic world.  Entering the cinema turns the art switch on, while everything outside this dark cave—in the real world on the street—that switch is turned off.  If a character in the movie gets shot, sit tight—this event exists in an alternate reality, where we are merely observers and our reactions don’t effect what’s happening on the screen.  If a character on the street gets shot, on the other hand, we call the cops, because our reactions do have an effect on the event that has taken place in the real world. We have a completely different set of behaviors and expectations depending on if this switch is on or off.   Conceptional art of the past 4 decades is all about the “switch” that separates our normal, everyday existence from an entry into an imaginary world.
People didn’t always have TV, movies, or theaters.  However, the “switch” has been present as an element of human consciousness.  The most primordial form that engages the switch is masks.  Masks, for the masked and the spectator, are the switch the takes us into the world of art.

 This is an African Mask made by the "Dan" people

The masks that my artist makes are inspired by tribal art. But, they’re made for a different reason and in a different way. They are fabricated from flat materials, such as foam core, rather than carved from solid wood.  This puts them in a contemporary context.  They are inspired by tribal art, but they do not imitate it.  They are white with black piping to simulate a drawing.  They are something between a drawing and a sculpture.

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