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“I would but find what’s there to find,
Love or deceit.”
“It was the mask engaged your mind,
And after set your heart to beat,
Not what’s behind.”
–from The Mask, William Butler Yeats

Masks have always fascinated me. People have been making and wearing them for thousands of years. The earliest ones found are over 9,000 years old.

The only piece of art I’ve ever regretted not buying was a teal colored plaster mask of a woman’s face on display in a booth at the Sausalito Art Festival many years ago. The mini installation above consists of a leaf-shaped fan I’ve been carting around for years, an elaborate dream catcher my partner and I got from an artist at the downtown farmers’ market in San Rafael one summer evening, and a paper mache mask he made of the upper part of his face before I met him (and before his deviated septum was corrected).

I’ve always thought it would be interesting to make a mask from a mold of my own face. For a while, I knew of a local artist who taught mask-making classes, but I never followed through. I might yet do it, though. I found these detailed instructions on how to make a paper mache mask. It’s a messy process and seems like the kind of thing that would be more fun to do in a group.

Beyond being fun, making a mask can be a more meaningful, even a transformational, experience:

Artists use a wide range of materials for the masks they make. Spokane artist Annie Libertini makes gorgeous leather masks. Click the link below to check out how she does it and what her creations look like.

Watch Transformational Masks on PBS. See more from Northwest Profiles.

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3 thoughts on “masks

  1. Rich Jones on said:

    Dear Joycelyn; The mask in the photo is Pop’s “acid mask,” which he made at one of Henry Sultan’s art parties held in the now legendary Dahlstrand basement apartment in Berkeley back in the Seventies. These masks were made with plaster/gauze bandages, a very easy medium to work with. Warning! You must first lightly coat your face with Vaseline, or upon drying, a rather painful depilatory experience will ensue. That’s why they were not full-face masks; both Pop and I had full beards back then.

    The one I made, in keeping with my bad attitude back then, in contrast to Pop’s colorful mask, presented a rather grim visage. It was painted dark green with dark blue-to-black around the eyes, and with a black yarn Burnside-style beard and eyebrows. I later wore it in a really bad student movie, made while attending City College of San Francisco. We shot it at Baker Beach. I played a demon that abducts a woman only to be defeated by a silver helmed warrior (to the accompaniment of War’s “Cisco Kid.”) It was even worse than it sounds.

    • OK, that does sound pretty bad. 🙂 But thanks for the info on the origin of the mask. It was just always a fixture around the house (or apartment as it were). It’s something I cherish. What happened to yours?

      • Rich Jones on said:

        I’m not sure what happened to that mask. I don’t remember having it any time after I moved out of San Francisco, so it may have been jettisoned for that move, when “I put away childish things.” I do recall now that in San Rafael, for some odd reason I made a papier-mâché mask that was sort of a large, oversized cartoon caricature of myself, painted dead white, complete with wire rim glasses fashioned from a coat hanger and white cotton hair that mimicked my ‘90s receding hairline. I think maybe Lynn still has it hanging in a closet somewhere, as she thought it very funny.

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