The Future Has an Ancient Face
Thank you for visiting THE FUTURE HAS AN ANCIENT FACE installation.
I believe we are all interconnected, and that artists find common souls and concerns to create their work. Consequently, what you think and what we all hear and read in our whirling world helped me to create the masks for this installation.
All over our planet, while the virus put its information into a one person’s cell and told that cell to make more of itself, I made masks.
“2020” opens the door to the collection. She is metallic, ancient looking, a bit frightening. The ‘dog star’ Sirius, prominent in the March sky, is embroidered on her skull. Searing and scorching, Sirius is a dog so swift no one can outrun her.
Wuhan took the world’s families to one marketplace to do their shopping.
This art mask is seductive, gentle, and beautiful; jade waxed with gold. She does not look you in the eye and her lips are sew shut.
A virus is a piece of information that just can’t carry on on its own. It needs hosts. In March 2020 dozens of Floridians who travelled on the Nile and brought it home.
This gold mask features a circle of crystals below her nose and a gold circle on her forehead. Circles within circles reinforce a universal movement, like a pebble tossed in water.
Many exhibit visitors told me they knew someone who looked like this mask. I liked to compare her to the Peanuts comic strip character Pig-Pen, who considered his shedding "the dust of ancient civilizations.”
“Shedding: Sharing” reminds us what goes around comes around.
Seven months into the lockdown, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died (September 18, 2020).
“Justice: RBG” sits on an Elizabethan collar, which she said she wore to deliberately feminize the traditionally male Supreme Justice black-robe uniform. The mask is blue, waxed with silver; silver being a mirror to encourages the viewer to reflect upon the responsibilities of justice and freedom.
Pennsylvania's governing framework inspired both the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It’s the land of the first American brewery,Yuengling; and where 80% of the nation's pretzels are made and consumed. These attributes can be found on the mask, as well as the state fish’s skin (the trout).
In November 2020, our politicians went ‘fishing’ for votes in Pennsylvania.
In December 2020, both the astronomical and astrological worlds were aflutter with news about the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction. The planets had not been this close in the sky for nearly 800 years.
Color? “In the pink” indicates good spirits. I used lip stain and rouge, too, and glued thumbnails of Nativity scenes inside the eyes.
The Navajo Nation experienced uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, perhaps because households tended to be multi-generational.
This mask celebrates the dignity of our tribal nations and its tradition of living in harmony with nature. The eyes are acorns; the dove feathers are tipped with gold.
Mid-March 2020 I found myself in the house with my recently retired husband and recently unemployed daughter--two people whom I hadn’t been glued to like icing on a cake for over twenty years. I didn’t go to my studio, which is in a large building shared with over 100 factory workers.
I set up a studio on the top of my washing machine in a windowless laundry room. I used my daughter's face; familiar materials (paper, glues, plaster, paint); and created masks as a metaphor for the protection we were all seeking.
The work resulted in the installation THE FUTURE HAS AN ANCIENT FACE, a visual-social history of the first two years of the pandemic.
In January 2022, my cousin Dan, a Western Pennsylvania Deer Hunter, sent me a set of antlers. At the time I was researching Old Europe artifacts as catalogued by Lithuanian archeologist Marija Gimbutas. She had found many symbols of deer in Neolithic culture.
The deer symbolism on the mask expresses the hope for regeneration, gentleness, and grace; the new moon crescents promise new beginnings.
The original Stargazer (3000 BC) sculpture is in the Cleveland Art Museum. My mother, who grew up in Cleveland, took me to see it--along with the museum’s collection of shrunken heads--when I was very young.
For me, mother-daughter is the most intimate, unconditional love I’ve experienced. It begins when we are pre-verbal; before language layers meaning onto love.
My Stargazer sculpture is a beautiful young woman’s head (molded over my daughter’s face) resting on a slice of blue sky. Her blue eyes are crystals looking upwards. Her skin glitters. The body is a pear tree from our garden. The concrete block base is filled with chunks of rose quartz, pale pink stones traditionally used to invite love.
Winter Storm Uri hit Texas in the cold, cold days of February 2021. The state’s electric grid collapsed. Blackouts extended from hours to days. People lost electricity, heat, water.
Inspired by the Hindu goddess Ushas (Dawn), the sculpture urge forth sun, light and warmth.
There’s a dark map of Texas painted on the sides of the head; acrobatic ravens protect the outline of the state. The dots and dashes on the front of the face trace the path of the winter storm.
The pandemic seemed to reach the end of its cycle and begin all over again...like the moon.
In my house, we were three in a ‘submarine’ managing claustrophobia and mental health, working and socializing virtually, cooking and watching TV, learning to respect each others’ boundaries.
In Pennsylvania, because of too many factors to list here, pheasants are now raised on game farms and released from cages by Game Commissioners. One year I shadowed a Game Commissioner and saw that moments after take-off the birds flipped upside down and fell back to the ground. Seemed like what the virus variants were doing to us when we stepped outside to experience freedom.
My Uncle John was an actor. In his house, there was a huge portrait of him standing next to a six-foot three rabbit named Harvey. That painting may have been a way-back inspiration for this mask. Truthfully, however, it started out as a January 6 mask based on the face of the man who wore a horned fur hat. I couldn’t go through with it. I turned the horns into ears and painted the face white: a vulnerable, fertile, and lucky rabbit.
If a medical person were wearing the coat it would be white, but it is splattered with paint. We might consider the musician, filmmaker, poet, and artist a front line worker who speaks to, entertains and cares for souls. One pocket of the garment holds a surgical mask; the other latex gloves. A threaded needle weaves itself into a pocket.
How do you meet a sweet someone during a pandemic? For young men and women in search of a lover, pandemic was the ultimate ‘it’s-not-easy’ ; for women it was a delay in reproduction opportunity.
This mask does not have eyes and, therefore, proceeds blindly in the blue light of late-night on-line dating.
Between March 2020 and September 2021, I rotated between CNN, MSNBC and Fox. No matter the network, breaking news cycles overlapped and lasted approximately 3-5 days. I listened for repetition of words and heard Wuhan, shedding, replication, lockdown, science, social distance. quarantine, school closures, economic chaos and masks, masks, masks.
A desire to document engaged my expertise with materials and mask history. Looking through a mask: artistically, and in real time, at the past and what might be coming, was my system of witnessing the fiendishly simple virus that evolved so quickly.
Billions of cicadas--a.k.a. The Great Eastern Brood -- emerged in a swath from Tennessee to New York in mid-summer, 2021. There’s no reason for these periodical cicadas to have prime-numbered life spans, but they do, and they make a lot of noise. The cicada’s business is simply to make more of itself—that’s its only job--just like the virus.
The huge 700-square-foot Tree of Life mosaic floor of Otranto Cathedral, in Salento, Italy, inspired this mask. At the bottom of the mosaic, a handful of cats guard the Tree of Life. For the mask, I converted the cats to dogs and added snails on the skull, which transform to butterflies over the mask’s eyes.
The masks in this collection--created with a loving nudge from Nike, the Goddess of Victory-- portray an intersection of art, myth, and history. There are additional masks in this series, not pictured here, made after September 2021.
Each reminds us to pick up the lightening bolt, to ride fast, to not be capricious.