Sunday, January 22, 2006

Which mask is yours, and what is under it?

There are stories behind the masks. Not just the ones you’ll see hanging in restaurants and shops over the next couple of weeks in downtown Panama City, or those at the Mask Parade gala, but also those we don each day when we stand in front of the mirror to decide what face we’ll put forth in the world.
These are the stories we hide with our masks, stories not in the mask itself but in the decision behind it. Look in the eyes behind the holes in the mask and you can see the story. Sometimes, then, when only the mask remains behind, we must use it to interpret the story by reading the negative spaces — sure, the mask has things to say, but what about things it doesn’t say? Things it was designed to hide?
These are the stories we tell with our masks, the bright things hidden, dark things revealed.
These are the sorts of ideas I mull when I consider the blank slate of a plaster mask for Covenant Hospice’s annual Mask Parade. I’ve been privileged each of the past four years to paint or otherwise construct a piece of (questionable) artwork around one of their blanks, and maybe I’ve thought too much about such things.
Maybe, considering the outcomes, I’ve thought too little.
You can be the judge this weekend, as the community is invited to the opening reception of Covenant’s Mask Parade Tour and Exhibit on Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Visual Arts Center, 19 E. Fourth St. After a recep tion, guests can participate in a guided walking tour of masks on display at The Pink Alligator, Olde Towne Antique Mall and Chef Imondi’s, with a final stop at Modeo’s for hors d’oeuvres and beverages.
According to a news release, the Mask Parade features more than 80 one-of-a-kind masks created by local artists and national celebrities, including Paul Brent, Roland Hockett, Courteney Cox, Ray Romano and Bill Cosby. The Junior Museum also has an exhibit created by children as part of the Junior Mask Project.
Admission to the tour is free. For more information, call 785-3040. The masks will be on display at these locations until Feb. 9, or to see them online, go to
The fourth annual Mask Parade Gala is Feb. 11 at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach. Tickets are $75 per person. Attire is semi-formal. For tickets and information, call 785-3040 or e-mail
The gala includes dinner, bidding on the masks, and vignette performances based on the sights and sounds of destinations around the world. Backgrounds for performances in the “golden age of travel” are the creations of art students from each of Bay County’s high schools. Proceeds benefit Hospice efforts in the Panama City area, providing services to patients and loved ones coping with end-of-life issues and illnesses, when masks are stripped away and only our stories — our memories — sustain us.

The preceding was my "Undercurrents" column for today's News Herald.