Thursday, 25 July 2013



Masks: Real & Fictional Collections

I own several masks, and I'm still trying to understand them. Masks are odd and contradictory things. They let us hide who we are and pretend to be something we're not, but they're also more than disguises, more than just lies carved into face-like shapes. Masks allow us try on new qualities and possibilities. They help us decide what we might want to become. 

The acting troupe in Goblin Secrets owns a vast collection of masks. Here's a glimpse of it:

The masks covered both the upstream and the downstream walls. Rownie saw heroes and ladies, villains and charmers, nursemaids and gentry. He saw animal masks made of fur, feathers, and scaly lizard skins bristling with teeth. Most had been carved out of wood or shaped in paster, but he also saw masks made of tin and polished copper, gleaming in the lantern light. He saw thin, translucent masks made of beetles' wings and carapaces. He saw long-nosed tricksters and ghoulish false faces. Hundreds and hundreds of masks hung from nails by lengths of string, and every one of them seemed to be watching Rownie as he watched them.
Goblin Secrets, Act III, Scene ii
I keep my smaller collection in my office. Ara, the Mali embodiment of water, sits above a messier, papier-mâché water droplet made by a local puppet theatre company. Momo from The Last Airbender sits directly on top of a demon from Deli. I'm not sure why Momo ended up there, but he did. 


I also have a fox mask by Jeff Semmerling and an unfinished Ko-Omoto by the Noh master Bidou Yamaguchi. Both Jeff and Bidou were hugely helpful with my mask-making research, and both have masks named after them inside the book. A finished Noh mask can change expressions without moving; just tilting the angle turns a smile into a thoughtful frown. The leather fox mask might be my favourite, and one of my favourite bookstores made a great, big, paper version of it the last time I read there.

["WillFox" — Photographer by Teri Fullerton]

["Unfinished" & "KoOmoto" —the finished version, and the photo of it, are both by Bidou Yamaguchi]


["RumpusFox" —Photograph by Laura Given]

Online I have a much larger collection. Students at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design made them for me, and each one can be printed, colored-in, and worn with string. 


Treat them well when you put them on.....

Check out the book review Here

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