Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"The Transformative Mask" - Mask Making

Working with Masks and  Myth

"Our work was not to re-enact the ancient myths, but to take those myths to their next level of evolutionary unfolding. Artists are the myth makers."
 Katherine Josten,  Founder,  THE GLOBAL ART PROJECT

Every mask is the beginning of a story, because each mask is inhabited by a being waiting to reveal itself, whether a universally recognizable archetype, or an eccentric,  very personal inner persona that can communicate in surprising ways.  Masks can heal by speaking with a voice that we can't, and masks can provide an opportunity for transpersonal experience as well, when we engage with sacred and universal archetypes.   In traditional cultures, such as Bali, sacred masks were viewed as a means for the divine - the gods, goddesses, ancestors and animal powers - to bless the living through ritual theatre.

Making a mask is a process, but it's only part of the process - those who will use the mask complete the journey.  And because the "spirits of the masks" come from the Mythic Realm, there is really no end to the journey at all.  Just a circle of new telling.

In my workshops, we learn to sculpt a theatrical mask from our faces, explore personally significant stories and symbols, and learn approaches to storytelling with masks, with discussion about community performance and ritual theatre.  I've found it's best to "invite the spirit of the mask" by beginning with a shared "Shrine".  Participants  bring objects that are personally  sacred and meaningful.  Our "Invocation" is sometimes a creative visualization exercise.    After we've created a "Circle" to work in, we "get plastered" in pairs as we take casts of our faces with plaster impregnated bandages. These will become plaster positives on which more durable leather masks can be then modelled.  

Plaster  casts can also be used to create masks and sculpture from clay and other media.  See below for a few examples from other students.

Preparing materials

Taking Face cast

Ready to remove

Casts of class members, Kripalu Institute
Modelling and shaping mask with Leather
(Courtesy Nancy Solomon)
Finished Wearable Leather Mask
(courtesy Barbara Gregson)
Casting Mask in Clay

Cast in Clay made into Personal Icon
(courtesy Lorraine LeConte)

Leather sculpture with Torso cast

 With gratitude to Nancy Solomon for the kind use of her photographs (copyright N.Solomon 2010)


T said...

What an utterly fascinating process and I absolutely love your emphasis on mythology and feminism and the ancient goddesses. My daughter is an art major and I'm going to send her the link to this. I think she will love this. Thanks, Lauren, for a great post.

Gail said...

I'm putting it out there/in here that one day I'll be able to take one of your classes. The whole mask making ceremony is magical.

Valerianna said...


Lauren said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments. I just felt like posting this because it's part of an article I'm writing about mask making, and also, because it's a good art to share with others.

Wishing you the best of Spring,