Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wear protection

“...sometimes we enter art to hide within it. 
It is where we can go to save ourselves, 
where a third-person voice protects us.”

-- Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero

“Nothing is more real 
than the masks we make 
to show each other who we are.”

-- Christopher Barzak, The Love We Share Without Knowing

Self portrait with papier-mache mask 4-17-13

I made this papier-mache mask during last year's 365 days project.
I like this mask because of how closely it resembles my own face. So when I'm wearing it, even though I am disguised, I still look like me.
Me, only stronger. Like some kind of warrior.
Me, only mystical. Like some kind of shaman. Or goddess. Or creature.
Me, only protected. My soft-and-vulnerables hidden beneath the safety barrier of a rigid face shield.
Me, only hidden. With my own identity obscured, I can be anybody. I can be anything.

Self portrait with papier mache mask (2) 4-17-13
I watched V for Vendetta the other night. It is one of my favorite movies, in great measure because of how it illustrates the transformational power of a mask. Toward the end of the movie, after the masked character "V" dies, there is a "will she or won't she" moment when you wonder if Evey will remove V's mask and look at his real face. And you kind of want her to, so you can see it. But you also really kind of don't want her to, because you know it will somehow diminish V. It will diminish his power. It will diminish his mystery. Without the mask, V wouldn't be V.  Like when Darth Vader takes off his helmet and underneath it his head is all burned, and pink and punky and raw and it's sort of sad and pathetic -- seeing him exposed that way.

Evey doesn't look. She doesn't need to, because she's already seen deeper. She has already looked past V's mask. Although not literally, she has already see his "real" face. With his mask firmly in place, Evey pulls the lever and sends V hurling along on the subway car to his explosive final creative act, with his strength, his mystique, his power, his self, all in tact.

There's a lovely scene earlier in the movie when Evey and V are dancing. And Evey kisses V on the lips of his mask. It is painfully intimate, more intimate, I think, than any flesh-to-flesh contact. She gives what she needs to give. And he receives what he is able to receive. It's the best they can do, and it is enough.

I guess if we're lucky, we masked characters, we have at least one Evey in our lives -- someone who respects the mask and yet sees past it, someone who looks deeper, without judging, who won't try to rip the mask from our faces because of what they want or need us to be, but who'll leave the mask in place, who'll  work around the mask as best they can because they understand and respect the importance of what we want and need to be: