Masks are thought to be an extension of face painting. They have been used since prehistoric times for protection, disguise, entertainment, and in ceremonies and rituals.
What interests me are the masks we wear, often habitually, in our interactions with one another. We use these social masks to protect ourselves.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
A mask hides who we are, and behind that anonymity we feel freer to be or do what we otherwise might not do–and reveal parts of ourselves we long to express. If you’ve ever been to a masquerade party, you know what I’m taking about.
Also, we are pack animals, and there are rules for accepted behavior within a pack. We’re not perfect, and we don’t always fit in. Social masks help us to fit within what our culture considers “normal”—at least, on the outside. But what happens after years of “fitting in?” What do we lose when our persona habitually conforms to a group standard?
Masks as an art form were starting to wiggle its way under my skin. Here’s what I’m working on so far:
The Gaping Maw
While the masculine in us wants to solve the problem, answer the question, finish the job, the feminine in us has an ever-expanding desire for more that will not be stopped. An enormous mouth makes up most of this mask, which I plan on adorning with dream fetishes.
This mask is a twist on death masks meant to protect the dead from evil spirits. Sometimes we protect ourselves from life by not living fully. From the outside we may appear spaced out, blank or not there. On the inside, it is as if we are not inhabiting our physical body, and instead “up and out” of it.
Keeping a secret can be a powerful form of intimacy. Divulging someone else’s secret without their knowledge or consent is an abusive form of power and manipulation. The gossip is a gleeful hub of information, and enjoys being at the center of his or her world. Often a drama queen, s/he feels more alive when life is an endless morass of intrigue and complexity.
Pain and Other Friends
Fear, pain, and other unpleasant feelings are an undeniable part of life. Can we allow them to weaken or close us? Or can we feel without being hooked by these emotions and instead, use them to strengthen who we are and set off rockets of desire for what we want?
When we meditate, we practice a state of grace often referred to “mindlessness,” and quiet what Buddhists call the chattering “monkey mind.” Scientists who study the brain during mediation see a decrease in beta waves, which are associated with an alert waking state, but can also occur as a sign of anxiety or apprehension. Benefits of meditation include better focus, and memory, less anxiety and stress, more compassion, and more creativity.
When we allow our thoughts to run away with us, they become a mask that covers our authentic self. When we are up in our heads, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to be embodied-–to feel our body–which is our most important emotional guidance system.
How much of yourself do you long to reveal, and what do you prefer to keep hidden?