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Here you're able to browse through current and past exhibits held at museums throughout the U.S. on masks. Each exhibit depicts masks in a different way and tell a different story about the people and activities associated with the objects on display.
"Creative Forces’ mask-making project, which invites patients to create masks with expressions of their feelings, memories, and identities, resonated with the group in the Virgin Islands, and they developed a mask-making program of their own in St. John. 'They tied it in with the whole notion of Carnival and shedding the past and moving into the future,' Mathis explained. 'There is a big mask-making tradition in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. They rolled all that in together and had workshops all over the islands for schoolchildren, seniors, and anybody who wanted to come and make masks.'"
"VMFA’s collection of the arts of Africa provides insight into a cultural mosaic and forms of artistic expression spanning from antiquity to present day. In the galleries, ensembles of related works portraying key cultural and historic narratives are stressed rather than being isolated from cultural context. The collection includes approximately 1,200 works representing the diverse historic arts of the continent. Contemporary art and works representing the Colonial and post-Independence periods have become areas of focus."
"Becoming Another illuminates the common threads and distinct differences in mask traditions from Northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Mongolia, Siberia, Japan, and the North-West Coast tribes of North America. Featuring masks used in shamanistic practices, communal rituals, and theatrical performances, this exhibition speaks to the human impulse to transform one’s identity."
"In “Brendan Fernandes: The Living Mask,” wooden masks from Burkina Faso, Congo, Cameroon, and Nigeria from DePaul Art Museum’s African collection are shown alongside the Chicago-based artist's work from the last decade. With photographs, steel sculptures, neon lights, a vinyl installation, and dance, the exhibition considers authorship, authenticity, post-colonial histories, performance, and identity in relationship to how museums collect and display African objects."
"“Masks” challenges the visitor to rethink identity, culture, beauty, history and the art form itself. The exhibit features works that capture masks in varying forms and mediums from Africa, ancient Greece, Asia, Haiti, India and Japan, and traces the evolution of masking."
"Beginning in the Middle Kingdom, mummies could be provided with funerary masks that covered the head and shoulders. These masks were made of cartonnage, a material consisting of waste papyrus or linen soaked in plaster. Similar to papier-maché, cartonnage can be molded in three dimensions, so the masks could be carefully worked to closely resemble the bodies inside them."
"We all wear masks, whether literal or imaginary. Sometimes a smile may disguise our thoughts, or we wear a complete costume to inspire new reactions. This museum version of Disguise is an unusually unfixed exhibition that has been conceived as a unique form of performance—a masquerade in slow motion—taking shape for a few months and then ultimately vanishing from view. It follows the premise of masquerades that don’t usually take place on fixed stages, with a curtain rising predictably on each act. Instead, they tend to invade daily life with dramatic force, upsetting the normal order of things."
"This exhibition features 80 masks depicting animals, folk personae, and historical figures that are deeply rooted in Guatemalan religiosity and popular culture. Throughout the country, people perform spectacular masquerades during Indigenous festivals, Catholic feast days, and secular events. These public dance-dramas are jubilant expressions of devotion and community identity. Also included are examples of timeworn handwritten scripts that guide the performers as well as photographs of dances taken by Jim and Jeanne Pieper during research trips. The masks, scripts, and images bring to life mythological, legendary, and archetypal characters that integrate Indigenous, colonial Spanish, and postcolonial Guatemalan themes."
"Central American masks found new forms in the centuries after the Conquista in sacred festivals and ritual dances. These holy instruments of survival represent, conceal, and transfigure double identities and double lives, speaking to layered political and spiritual realities."
"MASK, the exhibit, explores issues of spirituality, perceptions of self- identity, power and authority, human rites of passage, and the place of people in nature, as well as masks in sport and war, and in the popular media. There will be life and death masks, and masks that simply reflect the desire of people to have a good time. Masks are a universal part of the human experience."
"Masks take many forms, from crests that rest atop the wearer’s head to helmets and full or partial facial coverings. Many do not include a separate headpiece but are made entirely of cloth, fiber or leaves. Within Africa, a mask is rarely considered complete without its entire costume."
"People have used masks across cultures and throughout human history. They are worn in a variety of contexts including performances, rituals, and religious rites. They allow the wearer to take on a new, and often more powerful, identity. This exhibit showcases the breadth and depth of the Museum’s collections of masks from all areas of the globe."
"Among the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, masks played a metaphysical function, representing gods and divine creation, as well as demonstrating wealth, societal, and ceremonial status. After the Spanish invasion and colonization, the evolution of masks tracks the hybridization of cultures. The mask is not a set symbol, but rather a feeling or an example. More important than who the mask interpreted was what it represented, often through a dancer. The dancer represented the possibility of instant transformation through the object – the same mask could be a Moor in one dance and Jesus in another."
"Wooden masks worn by Pascola dancers hold deep ritual significance for the Mayo and Yaqui communities of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Showcasing masks from ASM’s James S. Griffith Collection, this exhibit examines masks and related traditions that are integral to the lifeways of the Mayo and Yaqui people. Guest curated by Santiago Benton (Mayo) and Yaqui Pascola elders, in collaboration with Dr. Griffith and Arizona State Museum."
"The origins of the carved wooden masks included in this exhibit, the meanings attached to their imagery, and the contexts of the various masquerades to which they belong, are the subject of Where Animals Dance. All of these masks refer in some way to animals living in the uncultivated lands of rural West Africa, areas often identified simply as "the bush." Hunters who enter the bush to kill game and farmers who disturb plants and animals as they clear land for cultivation enter the domain not only of wild animals but also of myriad spirits and supernatural beings."
"Over 200 masks are given to artists to embellish for this exhibition. Everyone starts with the same plain ceramic mask form, imagination and creativity are applied and the result is an exciting exhibition and community art project."
Gallery of the Exhibits
(University of Illinois' Spurlock Museum of World Cultures: "Where Animals Dance" Exhibit)
(Rubin Museum's "Becoming Another: The Power of Masks Exhibit")
(Seattle Art Museum's: "Disguise: Masks and Global African Arts" Exhibit)
(Michigan State University's "MASK: Secrets and Revelations" Exhibit)
(Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: "Masks" Exhibit)
(Brooklyn Museum's: "Arts of Africa" Collection)
(Virginia Museum of Fine Arts': "African Art" Exhibit)
(De Paul Art Museum's: "Brendan Fernandes: The Living Mask" Exhibit)