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Masks
by Carol Wright

See other page for works in clay
See page about making of Summer Solstice Sun Puppet

  Phantom
This white mask, my first, was inspired by the mask from Phantom of the Opera. I took a maskmaking class on Orcas Island, and developed my own method for the plaster finish, which is also obvious in the masks shown below. As often happens, the mask took on a life of its own...the nose is rather beaklike. Of all my masks, this is the one I wear most often, very conducive to pantomime and great for truly scaring the shit out of the little kids at Halloween!

COSTUME #1. A charming all-white ensemble. White surgical gloves from the pharmacy, white skull fit bathing cap. White turtleneck t-shirt with neck pulled up under the lip of the mask. (When I opened my mouth, one saw just a ghoulish indentation.) Over my body was a white sheet caftan, with a gauze caftan over that. Black makeup around the eyes. Stand statue still, then turn slowly...look with some determination at the child, and open the mouth and show just the slightest interest in eating the victim. Even in the midst of an elaborate costumed Halloween dance, the kids screamed and ran off. Also effective dancing, with all the fabric swirling in ghoulish glory. (Not so useful if you want to drink anything.)

COSTUME #2. This last Halloween saw the mask take on a Freddie Krugger interpretation. I decided to go all black...pants, socks, shoes, knit gloves, turtleneck t-shirt, and a black stretch fabric hood. Black strings held the mask in place, and black beneath the eyes. Cool, yet something wasn't complete yet. Hmmm. I had a Freddie felt brimmed hat that added a great deal. A 12-foot hangman's rope. This ensemble even scared me!! I live in the bottom half of an old farmhouse, and the couple next door built a coffin for the porch to go with their Dracula outfits.  They had scary sound effects going. How to entice the kids to MY place? When the little trickRtreaters came up on the porch, they passed my windows, and I threw myself at the window panes like some very ravished serial killer. Sometimes I just stared out the window menacingly, toying with my rope.* Again, very pantomime friendly and a heck of a lot of fun...er...fright. I played Wendy Carlos's "Timesteps" from Clockwork Orange at very high volume. It was a nervewracking evening!! ;-)
 

  • Wendy's notes and graphics from the original Moog synthesizer score of "Timesteps"
  • Wendy's notes about her Clockwork Orange music
  • What the heck...here's my interview with Wendy.
  • * About that hangman's knot. I spent most of my Halloween evening on line looking up "how to tie a hangman's knot." I never found it. I did find, however, one state's procedure manual about how to officially execute someone by hanging, but not how to tie the knot. I think that might be a key feature to the process, don't you? My landlord sez it's illegal to have a rope tied in a hangman's knot. So I had to improvize. At the very least, this research added an extra richness to the evening.

  •   Doctor "I"

    The photography does not quite do this mask justice. The mask's surface resembles the patina of ebony, yet its thinness implies it's made from beaten leather. (It's neither.) The spirit of this mask is "Doctor I," he who ever so gently points out how you kill yourself. (All right...how I kill my self.) In real life, The Doctor weighs about 5,000 pounds, perhaps the female equivalent of the great Baba Yaga. Funny, I can pantomime or embody all my other masks, but not this one. It's hard to even try it on.

    An astrologer once looked at my chart (which is almost all Earth), shook his head and remarked, "Heavy furniture." This mask is Heavy Furniture squared.


      Cirque du Soleil

    This mask was inspired by the commedia-type masks made by the Cirque du Soleil. The surface is an iridescent pink glaze, which sometimes buffs off. I lightly sand it and am just letting it age. Nothing sinister here, particularly. I was charmed by this mask, but not possessed by it. Weren't the masks in EYES WIDE SHUT terrific? Someday, I'll find links to pictures of them. The Cirque du Soleil has very few images on its website.
      "Bone" Mask

    Some call this Bone Mask, but if you held it, you'd see the rough surface is polished in places and buffed with iridescent glaze. Like glacial polish. I started out making a fish-thing: Calaban, perhaps from "The Tempest" (or my highschool vision of the character). As so many of these things go, the mask had a life of its own, forcing its way by circumstance to be its own thing, forced by my cheating ways, too. Because of the thickness of the crafts paper machier (I believe the stuff has a plastic binder because the dried product is almost too hard to file), I put it in the oven to hasten the drying process. Low temperature. (You know the story.)

    Oh, no! Smelled like a toxic dump and looked like a toasted marshmallow.  This would never do for a fish. I tried sanding the rough spots, and the glacial polish patina came up, helped by a bit of iridescent paint. I decided not to "plaster" the surface as I had on my other masks.

    Wait a minute...this thing looks, well African and was pretty weird as is. Weird could be good. I scrounged up some REAL gold leaf for the eye sockets, and threaded black and red beads around the top of the sockets. Leather thongs threaded with Tibetan skull bone beads made the ties. The original also had raffia grass strands hanging down the sides, but a crafty black and white cat named Spike had designs on the grass. Another twist of fate...now it looks Etruscan or perhaps the face of some entity that  would usher you across the River of Stix.

    I really haven't named it. I don't want to get too familiar! As a matter of fact, I gave it to my friend, storyteller Antoinette Botsford. I also gave her my antique frightfully bald Balinese demon-witch puppet with buck teeth, which she has displayed in her kitchen. She can have some of the spooks, but not all of them.
     

      Sunand Moon

    I forgot why I made these. Just because they are standards in the mask game, I suppose. To get them flatish, I had to open up the sides of my face "cast," yet still retain the roundness. I'm please with how each turned out and that they match as a set. The backside of the moon is painted with stars and galaxies. Eventually, I'll add more leather around the sun mask to make more rays, and perhaps I'll find some grey or silver leather for the moon. I wear the sun mask in the annual Summer Solstice Parade on Orcas Island, and for 2000, some of us made a large version of it, with large embracing arms. See how we did it!
    copyright 2000, Carol Wright

    Carol Wright
    P.O. Box 402 / Eastsound, WA  98245
    cwright@rockisland.com

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