October 2002 Mask Exhibit
Anyone who has ever worn a mask knows that masks are revelatory devices:
their purpose is to reveal rather than disguise. When we don them we drop
the well-developed "mask" of our everyday persona and safely allow
ourselves to reveal and become "something else."
As is it is for the mask-wearer, so it is for the mask-maker. In most of
my other artwork -- paintings, pastels, and sculptures -- I generally
adhere to obsessively executed pieces rendered in an almost relentlessly
consistent style. But when I "don" the mask of maskmaker I feel freed to
break out into new materials, styles, and techniques that aren't necessarily
recognizable as "my" work -- I become free of the burden of myself, free of
the artist's usual mandate to produce a coherent "series."
This particular exhibit encompasses pieces made from many different
materials in a variety of different styles and techniques, inspired by
different cultures, different concepts I've been playing with, different
emotional, intellectual, and technical concerns.
The one "theme" that ties these pieces together (with two exceptions) is
the natural world. The subject matter often utilizes animal imagery -- some
masks are "portraits" of animals, others are abstract pieces that use
patterns from nature, and a few are of animals "masked" with the patterns
of other animals. Other masks were opportunities for me to explore working
with gathered natural materials.
The two exceptions to this rather broad and vague theme are Primary Devil
and Secondary Devil, which are playful renditions of basic color concepts. A
third piece, Complementary Devil, which would complete this set, is still
The three Native American inspired pieces (Old Broken Nose, He Who
Wanders At Large, and The Great Northwestern Rat Goddess) are somewhat
autobiographical in reference:
I'm of slight Seneca ancestry (my father said that his mother was of the
least amount of bloodline that could still claim a bolt of calico a year
from New York under the old treaties). I never had an opportunity to grow up
with that part of my heritage, but have always been fascinated by it. Old
Broken Nose and He Who Wanders At Large are contemporized random basketry
versions of Iroquois Nation masks traditionally carved out of basswood.
As a child I attended Saturday children's classes at the Portland Art
Museum art college for several years. One of the benefits was the
opportunity to study and sketch pieces from the museum's outstanding
Northwest Indian art collection. The Great Northwestern Rat Goddess
references that period of my childhood.