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Advertising posters on wood mask

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Portfolios: Street-Masks


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Comment by Resident Curator on July 22, 2016 at 8:19am

Thank you for offering insight into your work- the image of the pig mask in the closet is a powerful one.  It is strangely intimate but also universal in instilling fear and curiosity.

I'm wondering if you're familiar with the work of Mark Bradford?  His work with discarded flyers found in his LA neighborhood seems to approach some of the same ideas, if not formal concerns. 

The question of race and authenticity is complex. I don't personally think an artist can ever truly speak to the racial experiences outside of his/her own.  But that doesn't mean there can't be meaningful dialogue about race, culture, media, etc.  But it may also have been Picasso who said "You can't be original; just be authentic."

I love the new pieces you've just posted on the site.

Comment by Nathan Anspaugh on July 22, 2016 at 6:06am

This is a perfectly pleasant surprise:)  Your analysis of "African Street-Mask" is insightful, Kristen.  I appreciate it very much!  This was the first mask I ever made, using bits of ad-posters collected from the streets.  I found the wooden mask - which I did use as an armature - on the street as well, before the stoop of an old brownstone building in Brooklyn, NY.

Your remark about the scattered and reunified African diaspora is particularly helpful.  In a general sense, I imagine the "self" as a fragmented whole.  My work is an exploration of self, in a given time and place.  The posters, which typically promote cultural events/activity/material, signify that which moulds one's self.  

During a studio visit one time, someone told me that people would question my use of an African mask, since I'm a white American.  Of course appropriation is one of the important methods of my work.  However, to me appropriation is elemental to art.  Anything that a person can identify with is appropriate material for self-expression.  Identifying with something, means that a connection is perceived or felt.  I think it's very important that one acknowledge one's feelings/perceptions as true, or at the very least, significant.  

That said, the connection I feel with any person is primal.  People and things are inseparable from their environments. Therefore, it's possible to relate to everyone and everything in an intimate way, or as a part of a total "self".    

In this case, as you mentioned, the mask is a timeless or primal form.  I especially like African masks because of their accentuated and simplified features.  But what I really appreciate about them is pointed out in the last paragraph of the following statement, which I wrote last year (Picasso was a major influence):

While exploring in my parents bedroom closet as a young child, I uncovered a pig’s head in the form of a latex mask.  Since the moment of this discovery I have had a phobia of masks, which manifests as physical revulsion.  Exploring fear is an important concern in my life and work.  This is the core reason why masks emerged as a prominent motif.

In addition, consumer culture is being critically examined.  Street-excavated posters are the primary media used to make the masks; a material which is a popular means of communication for the consumer culture at street level.  Tearing the posters from their original context is a deliberate intervention of their coercive aim.  There is also an investment in the idea that gathering these posters is an archaeology of everyday, contemporary culture.  

From my perspective, the manipulative power of consumer based culture is threatening and difficult to fully comprehend.  In many indigenous cultures, misunderstood forces perceived to be dangerous are given recognisable form in masks.  It is believed that the person wearing such a mask loses their identity and attains complete identification with the represented force.  In this way they become a medium, initiating open dialogue with the unknown entity.   Empowerment and protection in relation with the force is the outcome of this communication.  It is this magical function of masks that is of particular interest. 

I've posted some new images of more recent work.  To be honest, I forgot I had an Artists2Artists account.  Your effort reminded me of it and gave me a new appreciation for the positive effects of social media.  Thank you kindly:)  




Comment by Resident Curator on July 20, 2016 at 7:33pm

Curator’s Comments:


African Street Mask crafts a brilliant composite of abstracted faces into a cryptic but unified persona.  I see an enigmatic presence in the shifting structure of the head and features; perhaps echoing the scattered but reunified Diaspora itself.  Introducing advertising/popular media as raw material into a timeless form creatively looks back while looking forward. The red, white and blue (and bronze) coloration may also call to mind colors of a flag, or simply shifts between hot and cold emotional extremes.  I don’t see the wooden mask mentioned in the final piece- perhaps this was just an underlying armature.  I prefer contemplating the piece was made from found papers, which adds another conceptual layer to the sculpture.  The other Political Street Mask you’ve posted (both created some time ago) appears crude and elemental by comparison. Both pieces suggest an inner transformation taking place, but the more refined features in the second work draws me in closer to see what’s taking shape.

Resident Curator Views

Ms Kristen T. Woodward critiques of members art.


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