Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Self portrait 3-6-13
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask. 
-- from We Wear The Mask, by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Every now and then I like to stroll through the costume store, just to see what's new. Little costume pieces and disguises are an essential (and fun) part of my self portraiture from time to time. On my most recent trip I found these transparent masks with a little bit of "makeup" painted around the eyes, cheeks and lips. The masks are lightly opaque, but still see-through enough to render the contours of my face visible under the overlaying plastic surface.

Some masks cover the whole face. Others only cover part (like with an eye mask) and leave the rest of the face fully exposed. These masks are unique in that while they cover my whole face, they still allow my own features to emerge beneath and fuse with the masks' features into a whole separate identity. Kind of like hiding in plain sight.

Self portrait 3-5-13
In the article "Mask" by Hana Kim (link below), the author says "People do things they would never have done in their own faces under the new persona of a mask. They become somebody else that they may at any time throw away."
The "somebody else" is a third party. It is not mask alone. It is not person alone. It is a whole new "somebody" born from the fusion.

That fusion of me with mask gets at something interesting -- the possibility of mask and self becoming not "throwaway", but permanent parts of each other, so that even when the mask is "off," the wearer still bears its imprint, or some residual effect (even if that imprint is psychological). And so, too, the mask. Can its pliable shape, through repeated wear, begin to re-form itself according to the landscape of the real flesh and bones alive beneath it's surface? With repeated wear, over time, will the distinguishing characteristics that differentiate mask from face become blurred as the two mold toward one another, assuming each other's characteristics, until eventually there is no longer a distinction?

And if so, which face has the stronger power to force the shift ... the real or the false? Does the mask mold itself to eventually fit the unyielding face of the wearer? Or will the human face give way? Will the human face allow its topography to be transformed until it is permanently re-shaped by the mask? Or do the two "faces" perform a slow crawl of plate tectonics toward one another, giving and taking, molding and shaping, until the fusion is complete and an altogether new face is forged -- a times-two face that either emboldens the wearer by veiling inhibitions and self-consciousness, or creates a barrier from behind which the wearer pushes others away ... or a passage through which she entices them to come closer?

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