I think perhaps I will choose to be someone else I must accommodate myself, defer to my mask
while the other me struggles to understand what we both have in common
am I who they think I am?
or am I a secret that will never be explained?
These drawings of ventriloquist dummies in the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky were inspired by a book of photos of the dummies taken by Matthew Rolston. The Kick-About prompt of a circus immediately brought them to mind.
Haunting and aware, I had always wanted to try to capture some of the sentience of the photos in a drawing. And so I did, randomly opening the book to 4 different faces.
One of the essays in the book says they are meant “to suggest life”—but any supposedly “inanimate” object so entwined with a human life is alive. Any child can tell you that. They may have been separated from their humans, but these faces remember them.
You can read more about the Vent Haven Museum here, and read more about Rolston’s book here.
The mask is mute—it does not tell what lies beneath– layers falling backward, a way from the present– unglued, it rearranges, becomes paper becomes scissors cutting through the air– thought stilled before form
Continuing my mask theme, three collage masks inspired by Matisse cut-outs that I did for the Kick About a few weeks ago. In my poem I was thinking about a film I saw of Matisse at work.
I’ve been working with masks for a long time in many different media. These are inspired by Mexican Devil masks as well as by Matisse.
Austin Kleon has a great post about masking with some excellent quotes that you can read here. It’s a mode of expression I’m sure I’ll always continue to explore.
Here’s another devil mask and a shovel poem I did for a Sue Vincent photo prompt in 2017. Thanks again, Sue, for all your inspiration.
“…that what you fear the most/could meet you halfway…” –Victoria Williams, “Crazy Mary”
The horns that make you. Tell me what endures: you, masked with fear, burning life to ashes, the ender? Or the most wild transformation that could be? We meet face to face. But you pause. Halfway.
phantasma goria exposed by shadows dissolving into borrowed wings eclipsed by casting out light
I’m behind a few weeks on posting my contributions to the Kick-About, but this is the most recent, a collage inspired by Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism, above. Masked in roses, she was photographed in a white dress and gloves, surrounded by pigeons in Trafalgar Square, a performance inspired by a painting by Dali.
I was drawn to the statuesque quality of the photo, particularly given the location, and I can never resist using birds in a collage.
And of course we all don our own masks–some are just more obvious than others.
The Kick-About #15 features lithography illustrations by Eric Ravilious from the book High Street. I was immediately drawn to the shop full of masks, above. I’ve drawn, painted, stitched and collaged many masks over the years, and I also have quite a few that I’ve collected, stored and waiting for a place to be displayed.
For the prompt, I decided to focus on Mexican animal masks, since the animal masks in the shop illustration seemed to be the most prominent element.
Masking has a long history in the indigenous culture of the Americas, and animals are commonly used in dances, ritual, and ceremonies, often combined with Christian stories and characters.
Masks are vessels in which a powerful energy is stored, an energy than can help cross the boundaries between human and animal, creating a co-existence of spirits in the same body.
I confess that once I got started with these it was hard to stop.
The technique I used was the Rorschach monoprint–I painted one side and folded the paper in the center and pressed down to create a mirror image.
and if they take me to heart, if they pull me through their own openings
will I flow, float dreaming in side their abiding presence–
no, not dead, but yet not of the living—unbound by movement or time,
reconnected, emerged as an ancestor to myself
what came out was not the same as what went in
I liked the bat so much I did it twice, once on red paper and once on white.
Once we were all earth. We were only ourselves when we were each other. Our world had not yet been divided into good and evil, dark and light.
Golems we were, every one of us, raw elements of matter and light, untamed magic. Cosmic dust animated by water air and fire, rising from the depths of the sea. Pure energy concentrated into simple patterns over skeletons of increasing complexity.
Our origins shadow us, a mirror containing our destination. We fear who we are and so we seek to distance ourselves, destroying all reminders of our fragile mortality, our kinship with clay and mud.
We have transformed the golem into a fearful beast. We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time. What words can return us to our proper place on the winding wheel?
How do we spell life?
Prosery for dVerse using the poetic line from D.H. Lawrence suggested by Kim: ‘We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time’.