The brand new “Masks” exhibition on the Vicki Myrhen Gallery means that all of us have a alternative in how we get by the present pandemic that’s upending our lives: We are able to endure it or we are able to take pleasure in it.
We are able to wallow in our worry and aggravation or we are able to grasp on to the chances it generally locations proper earlier than our eyes. Or, as this exhibit attaches to symbolically, these issues under our eyes within the face coverings we’re all mandated to put on now.
Showcasing work from 41 artists who observe a spread of disciplines, the exhibit transforms these masks from muzzles to megaphones, encouraging us to consider them not as burdens, however as billboards for self-expression and avenues for creativity.
Should you go
“Masks” continues by Dec. 1 on the Vicki Myhren Gallery on the College of Denver campus. It’s free however advance appointments are required to cut back crowding. Data at 303-871-3716 or vicki-myhren-gallery.du.edu.
In a single sense, “Masks” is a vogue present that includes designer seems to be conceived for the accent du jour. The wares on this parade of attire are available a spread of cuts, colours, materials and kinds.
You want fringe? Frankie Toan’s Lone Ranger-like cowboy masks, titled, “The OP,” offers it to you in gold.
Want silk or cotton? Dorothy Grant’s “raven” masks employs each materials, printed with references to the raven, an emblem of energy and knowledge for the Haida Nation, which she is a part of.
How about lace? Tiffany Matheson’s elaborate masks begins on the nostril and mouth and extends into a complete headdress. It’s made of assorted supplies, however it hangs smooth and sheer like a veil.
After all, the title of Matheson’s piece, “Momento Mori” hints at one thing extra severe than high fashion, translating into one thing akin to “keep in mind you need to die.” It doesn’t allow us to neglect, that amid all this dreaming, there’s a lethal illness ravaging the world.
That duality defines the masks on this present. They are often enjoyable to take a look at, however they usually include a catch. Take, for instance, Cristina Rodo’s “Covidus,” which is manufactured from wool and takes the type of an octopus that has hooked up itself unrelentingly proper on the middle of a face. There’s a punchline there, although it offers method to the truth that masks really can really feel like they’re caught to us, whether or not we prefer it or not.
Or Michael Espinoza’s “The best way to Survive a Plague,” manufactured from plastic condom wrappers, which is each amusing and foreboding, making clear connections between COVID-19 and the final main well being disaster the world confronted, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which continues to afflict hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Or Liz Sexton’s well-crafted, papier-mache “Porcupine,” which takes the type of a sharp, puffed-up fish and covers your entire head. It’s clever, nearly stunning, however prohibits the wearer from displaying any emotion, frustratingly diminishing our facial expressions like all masks do.
This identical thought is embodied exquisitely in Ashley Frazier’s “Glass Masks,” a sublime face protecting studded in shards of glass. It glistens like a beaded robe in a ballroom — although you wouldn’t actually need to dance with it.
Even the masks that reference artwork historical past — Kate Marling’s “Classical Sculpture Masks” which seems to be like a modified Michelangelo; or Mathias Kresmer’s “Arcimboldo” which is adorned in fruits within the type of famed 16th century, Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo — seem plastered-on or overbearing.
In some methods, “Masks” feels slammed-together. It’s not fine-tuned the best way most artwork exhibitions are. The masks are displayed merely, on cabinets put in at eye-level, and the objects are all positioned on similar model heads. There’s no rhythm, simply the products.
There’s additionally an absence of signage. As an alternative, gallery guests are pointed to a QR code, which permits them to obtain a information on their telephones the place, with some effort, they’ll be taught the names of artists and the media they used.
That could be a security measure, after all, meant to cut back touching and germ-spreading. The gallery is on the College of Denver campus, which seems to be taking security precautions critically; masks are in every single place and entry to buildings is restricted to keep away from crowds.
However the lack of polish works within the present’s favor. It feels rapid and pressing and underscores simply how huge a problem it was to place this exhibition collectively, on a decent time schedule and amid the chaos of a pandemic, a activity achieved by the gallery’s Lauren Hartog, working with a staff of graduate college students.
The gallery itself, normally reserved completely for exhibitions, has been commandeered of late by faculty officers who’re determined for classroom area as class sizes have been decreased. For that cause, the exhibition is open to the general public solely on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
The provisional nature of the show additionally helps to make it an acceptable venue for masks that fall on the extra post-apocalyptic facet of issues. The urgency, for instance, heightens the consequences of Serge Attukwei Clottey’s untitled masks that seems to be long-established — out of hysteria and in a rush — from the mouths of multi-colored, plastic jugs. It magnifies the sci-fi fringe of Tracy Tomko’s “BYOO (Carry Your Personal Oxygen),” which is manufactured from clear tubes that include crops meant to supply their very own breathable air — simply in case the wearer wants it.
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Total, the exhibition manages to stroll a effective line between leisure and social commentary on the state of the world. All of these issues which have come to be true about mask-wearing — the political or patriotic features, the need and annoyance and resignation of all of it — are manifested right here.
The exhibit would possibly really feel frivolous to some individuals, each to those that have suffered loss or sickness as a result of coronavirus, and to those that really feel put upon by having to put on a masks in any respect.
But it surely additionally serves as a little bit of teaching at a time once we want it. Masks and different precautions are going to be part of our lives for awhile. We are able to combat that or we are able to discover a couple of methods to tolerate it with humility and humanity. This present focuses on masks, however it reminds us that there are individuals behind them, hindered by inconvenience however nonetheless capable of outline the second on our personal phrases.
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