As we all find ourselves immersed in this new reality of being required to cover our faces everywhere we go, the mask has become a much disputed, central item in our everyday lives. The COVID mask represents a very challenging and stressful time in my life, and it’s a constant reminder of the confusion and uncertainty around the world. My grey hair count has increased 10 fold in the last 5 months.
But not all masks hold such negativity. The weird and wonderful masks of the Mayans and Northwest Native American cultures inspire me and milk my creative gland. In college I created countless mask studies and paintings, trying to define my own artistic style and language, inspired by the ancients. There was also something captivating about that face on the canvas staring right back at me.
Masks have played important roles in societies for thousands of years. From sacred rituals and animal spirit protection to instilling fear into the enemy. Doctors and Superheroes also wear them for protection and disguise. The range of uses for masks throughout human history is far and wide. Covering our human face is an act embedded deep within humanity.
So when I recently took a picture of myself and drew an abstract, decorated mask design over my face, I immediately knew there was something subconsciously, culturally relevant happening. I then created mask drawings on a few friends and it sparked something in me. As I sit, quietly drawing onto these familiar faces staring back at me, it allows me to reflect on the value of the people in my life. And creating their personal mask becomes a sort of ritual in itself. A ritual for reflection, for empathy, for gratitude. But also a simple, engaging exercise in design and composition. It contains both deep meaning and shallow fun. That is life. I recently noticed that none of these masks are covering mouths… perhaps a subconscious design choice to push back against the negativity of our current situation. I wish for my friends to breath free of fear. And I hope these masks provide them safety and spiritual sanity as we all fall deeper into this new world.
To see the whole project, follow the #APmasksonfriends tag on Instagram.