Celebration Masks by Bobbi Headder

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Introduction by Bobbi Headder:

Apparently humankind has always been psychological in nature. A function of awareness, feeling or motivation, i.e., mental states and processes. Mental ploys and strategy propelled humans to greater and higher levels of existence.

Masks have been an integral aspect of this process. Necessary to complete and maintain humanness. Since antiquity masks have been predominant in the development of the human psyche. The human soul, spirit and mind.

alt text This stone mask from the pre-ceramic neolithic period dates to 7000 BC and is probably the oldest mask in the world (Museée de la Bible et de la Terre Sainte).

A mask is worn for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since time immemorial for both ceremonial and practical purposes. Usually worn on the face, they may also be positioned for effect elsewhere on the wearer's body. In parts of Australia giant totem masks cover the body. Inuit women use finger masks during storytelling and dancing.

The use of masks in rituals or ceremonies is a very ancient human practice across the world. Masks can also be worn for protection, in hunting, in sports, in feasts or in wars — or simply used as ornamentation. Some ceremonial or decorative masks were not designed to be worn. Religious use of masks has waned, but masks are used sometimes in drama therapy or psychotherapy. Masks are used for healing purposes.

We have discerned what it means to be human through the use of masks. With masks we allow ourselves to be transformed into different identities. Masks can be sacred, practical or playful.

alt text My own interest in masks started in my preteens. I would draw paper dolls in costume with masks. Back in the early 80's while in college, I made a mask of my own face with papier-mâché. Although my interest waxed and waned, I was always drawn to the mystery of masks.

About five years ago I was inspired to paint masks because of an email. It contained photos of costumed, masked people celebrating Carnaval in Venice, Italy. I was enchanted. I started doing my own variations of some of the masks. Early on I decided this was going to be more than paint and would include collage elements. I had dabbled with adding items other than paint to my canvases. I liked the idea of attaching assorted "stuff" to the surface creating another dimension. Masks were the perfect subject to embellish. I continue to add various collage items depending on the particular mask in progress.

In January, two weeks before Mardi Gras, I went to New Orleans to fulfill a promise. During a discussion about art with the front desk clerk at the hotel, I showed her the photo of my Mardi Gras mask painting. (See Artist Comments: Genevieve) She was quite taken and said she just knew that her boss, the owner of the hotel, would love it. Also that he promoted artists in his lobby gallery. I emailed her JPEGs of masks I had done. She showed them to her boss and just as she predicted, he was very interested and invited me to exhibit in his gallery. But he wanted several mask paintings. Once again I was inspired to continue the Celebration Series paintings.

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