Sunday, January 02, 2005

Behind the Mask...

...I am painting a mask now. It has no eyes, though it has indentations that intimate the positions of eyes, and a rising and falling in the center of the oval face to suggest the placement of a nose, and similar rounded lumps where lips ought to be. It was a blank white plaster slate, yesterday. And today I'm painting it.

It's the third one I've done. The local Hospice organization auctions the masks each year, though mine usually go for the minimum bid, as I understand. Not like the thousands of bucks they get for celebrity masks by people like Courtney Cox and Justin Timberlake. Still, it's nice to be asked, and I take it very seriously.

Three years ago, I did a collage of sorts that incorporated bits of a an Undercurrents column about the space shuttle Columbia that is now part of my book. Two years ago, I did a collage that used bits of hardware, X-shapes and O-shapes, wire and so forth, all painted chrome and silver.

This year, my subject is a version of Van Gogh's The Starry Night. He did several versions of it, and there have been as many knock-offs on computer mouse pads and coffee cups and so forth, and I did a version on glass myself in 2001.

I'm thinking about masks and visions. What they hide, and what they allow us to reveal -- what our art reveals about us -- what our masks reveal that we think remains hidden. Wouldn't you have recognized Robin The Boy Wonder as Dick Grayson? Wouldn't you have known that was Bruce Wayne even in the cowl? Please tell me the black-rimmed glasses and change of hairstyle wouldn't have been enough to make you mistake Superman and Clark Kent for different persons.

What lies beyond the starry night? What visions lurk behind the closed eyes of the mask?
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