Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bon Voyage, Little Ones

My 'children' are on their way to Montana now. Our den feels empty, our hearts are saddened, and yet full of excitement for the upcoming show. My partner and I pulled an all-nighter Friday night, labelling, wrapping, and packing the masks to send them off on their journey to new lives. Maybe some of you think it's silly to get attached to a piece of art - hunks of wood. But the masks each have their own spirit, and we have enjoyed having them displayed on the wall of our den these last months. The wall is now blank, save for the empty hangers. We will bring down several sets of finger masks I made last year to fill the space. Anyway - we were up till 5:00 a.m. Saturday, then got up around 9:30 to scoot off to the Post Office to mail them. All but two pieces are on the way to Bozeman.

Below is a 'family portrait' of me and my masks, before their departure:

I crashed yesterday afternoon for a nap. Later, we went to dinner, and saw "The DaVinci Code" at the theater. I won't spoil it for anyone - though if you've read the book, there won't be any surprises. The movie was much better than I anticipated, though I think if you haven't read the book, you might miss out on some background material.

It seems so strange to be done with my big project - and have all this time to do simple things, like go shopping for flowers for our porch. The weather has been rainy all week, so we didn't even feel up to taking in Folk Life in Seattle. Of course, I still have some things to do to get ready for the workshop in July. I'll do a slide presentation on Yupik masks for the public (last year it was at the library), and update my handouts a bit. I have some other commissions I've put off since February, so I'll have to pick up where I left off. In all, it's been an intense and enjoyable four months!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Four More Finished Masks Plus three Small Ones

This is Dance Object with Sea Animals. The original was suspended from the community house, but mine has been finished to hang against the wall. The finished size of the base is 10", and with feathers, it is about 18" accross. Cottonwood bark mounted on pine, feathers, glass beads, oil stain and acrylic (on pine). The little animals would have traditionally been mounted using bird quills or baleen, so they would bounce or look like they were swimming when the object was raised and lowered. I made the background in my piece to look like the sea, and the black dots represent the holes that led to the spirit world of the animals, as well as the breathing holes in the ice.

This is Two-Faced Mask. It represents the dual nature of man, by showing both a male and female face. It is a shamanic piece, as illustrated by the toothed hat or head ornament. From the hoops hang 'clackers' which would move with the dancer's movements. I hung mine with copper wire, which gives a modern spin to the mask, and allows movement by air, even when the piece is static. The woman (bottom) is adorned with the traditional chin tattoos, and wears beads in her septum. Size: 21" h x 5" w (at hoop). Cottonwood bark, alder root, feathers, copper wire, glass beads.

The Crane Inhua is a crane with it's inhua or human spirit on its belly. A human figure bound in grass rides on her chest - it probably represents a shaman. Size: 12" h x 13" w. Cottonwood bark, glass beads, raffia, alder roots, feathers.

Here are two views of Blue Shaman: closed and open. He is in the act of transforming or travelling between spirit worlds, hence the teeth in his arms and legs. It was known that when a shaman was transforming, you could see into him - his guts and bones would be visible. His belly has doors which reveal a goggled visage - not feminine, but wearing a mustache. On the right inner door are caribou fleeing, and on the left door, two seals. Size: 14" h x 11" w. Cottonwood bark, alder root, glass beads, feathers.

The three smaller masks below are ones left from a sale I did last October at my Native Corporation meeting in Seattle. They will go to the show in Montana as well. First is a Kodiak mask I titled Spirit of Kodiak Winds. It is a simple mask, but the white painted design reminds me of New Guinea masks. There is raffia coming out of his mouth. Size: 5" h x 2" w. Cottonwood bark, raffia.

This happy fellow is a Sculpin (also known as a bullhead or Irish Lord). The spots on masks are believed to represent eyes, stars, snowflakes, or windows to the other spirit worlds. They could be any of these things, depending on the mask. Size: 12" h x 3" wide. Cottonwood bark, root, feathers, brass wire.

Lastly, we have Moon-Dwelling Spirit. The tuunraaq were malevolent or just naughty spirits that lived on the moon. Their faces show the phases of the moon. They were blood thirsty creatures - but mine is vegetarian - his mouth is smeared with berry juice! The spots here represent stars. Size: 12" h x 3" w. Cottonwood bark, roots, feathers, and copper wire.

With these pieces, my total is at 15. I had promised the gallery in Bozeman 15 masks. I have two more in progress, a pair of one-eyed masks. If I get them done, I'll ask the gallery if they can arrive a bit late. Everyone else is going to be packed up and mailed this weekend. It has been intense, and really enjoyable to spend so much time on my masks these past few months. I used to be much more consistent before I moved to Washington. I probably averaged 3-5 new pieces a month back in 1996. But then we had our own gallery, and the Alaskan spirits to inspire me! I think there are spirits here too, they are just more shy, and have had to gradually get used to me. We feel that every time we go walk in the woods, some little hitchhikers come home with us - in the Philippines, they are fairies or brownies. Now, with the new masks, our little fairies or spirits have new homes they can dwell in for a very long time!

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