I’ve been painting since I could hold an artist’s tool. That doesn’t mean I’ve mastered the art thereof. Although I’ve participated in fairs, exhibitions, and sold on commission, painting is something I’ve always preferred to do for personal satisfaction.
After moving to Delaware in 2011 and seeing the welded work of newfound friends, I became inspired to learn MIG and TIG welding. I contacted a friend in the Corning area and asked if he could become my welding Sensei. Thus began my newest foray into three-dimensional work.
Having a mother who mastered the art of sewing fine tailored suits, I’ve been sewing since I could reach the sewing machine’s floor pedal. But after my mother died in 2016 followed by my father’s death three months later, sewing took on a whole new meaning. It became my path to grief recovery and an outlet for renewed creativity.
New masks for 2021 – Winter Series 1 – 9
In 1982, George Winston, the renowned acoustic pianist, produced the album “December.” It is filled with musical observations of quiet winter walks in nature blanketed by snow. The evocative melodies capture the sense of a bucolic landscape inviting solace for the listener. A style he calls “folk piano”—a blending of Appalachian, Celtic, and Cajun traditions–the music often fades or crescendos, then Winston releases variations of chords, improvisation, syncopated lyricism, and manipulation of the instrument – muting or plucking the strings, all to give the listener the full range of human experience in a good northern latitude winter. This new series of masks are all about winter, with some details that touch on coming spring. Using novelty trim, notions, and fabrics in winter white, or colors that evoke the wintry scene outside my upstate New York studio–browns and white–the masks echo Winston’s techniques of improvisation, lyricism, and manipulation of the material, while recalling the beauty of nature in winter. Hints of snow drifts in tufted silk satin or allusion to cerulean blue ice shelves appliqued with tie-dyed fabrics offer similar improvisation and plucking of texture. In all, this series of masks offer a united concordance of alternating threads, fabrics, and muted tones to suggest a range of winter sensitivity by the wearer. All masks are triple layered. 100% Cottons, silks, silk threads, polyester, novelty trims, buttons, and Pellon interfacing.
An instrumental founding member and first president of the Board of Directors at The Delaware Contemporary, Gina Bosworth’s art explores life through the molecular and macroscopic arena to visualize the workings of organic matter. She calls it the “confluence of science and art,” where the formal elements of design affirm and closely relate to the natural world order. Using various fibers and raw materials her layered constructs consider the circular contours of atoms, cells, and molecules. In this mask, the random life form of cells, symbolized in the polka-dots, are woven into the pattern, the “protective membrane” of the silk fabric remnants. The design is unified by both the ribbons that imply movement and communication among the cells, and the button, which echoes the polka-dots in the silk pieces, and the color, to symbolize red blood cells. The mask has come full circle corresponding with Bosworth’s work in the material (cotton and silk) since silk is a fiber produced by the silk worm and cotton contains ninety-percent cellulose, an organic compound essential for robust cellular structure.And now with the pandemic, masks are an essential barrier to provide robust respiratory protection from the deposition of droplets of the airborne viral and bacterial particulates. This mask is all about the confluence of science and art. Cotton, silk, polyester ribbon, button, Pellon interfacing. Check out Bosworth’s exhibition I curated with my assistant Michele Dao at The Delaware Contemporary: https://www.decontemporary.org/confluence
Originated in Berkeley, CA, Flower Power became synonymous with the subcultural hippie movement begun in the 1960s, its psychedelic arts, and the anti-Vietnam War protests. Protestors carried flowers, flags, and posters inscribed with the word LOVE. The art of Milton Glaser and Peter Max propelled the flower power phenomenon with their designs for the Beatles’ films or Bob Dylan’s posters. The 1960s also birthed the remarkably creative “art to wear” movement. Relegated to their studios, textile artists took time-honored techniques of crochet, embroidery, and applique with cottons, woolens, felt, and recycled items to fashion a bold new personal vision related to socio-political issues. Artists liberated from the constraints of social norms to the spirit of the age took inspiration from every corner of their existence and harvested new concepts for expression in their one of a kind wearable works. Music, folklore imagery, modern art, and the environment all embodied the language that offered infinite possibilities for patterns and texture and channeling the aggregate of emotions of the time. This one of a kind wearable work of art contains a vibrant motif and felt flowers in homage to these two movements. 100% Cotton, felt, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbon
Thorstensen’s exhibition “In Between There” at The Delaware Contemporary in 2018-19 showcased her knack to transcend all assumptions about printmaking. Mastering all the laborious techniques of printmaking, Thorstensen captures subtle and overt tonal gradations to visually express the fluidity of human consciousness and memory. As a result, layers and layers of imagery and textures flood the surface of the print. But it’s the spaces “In Between There” that serve as the framework unifying abstraction with the permanence of materiality. In this mask, I recreated Thorstensen’s tonal gradation and layers of patterning in the various fabrics. The design is unified by the familiar shape of the fan, the linear patterns so emblematic of Thorstensen’s etching stylus, and subtle modulation of monochromatic hues. 100% Cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbon.https://www.decontemporary.org/shelley-thorstensen
The Fan, an ancient craft, emblematic of Japanese culture, mixed pragmatism, expediency, and beauty. It was used as a fashion accessory to cool off in sticky hot summers. It was associated with Japanese culture to communicate messages. And it was included on silk road trade routes. Now, as a contemporary “art to wear” craft it is infused with a little metalica to help ward off the current pestilence. The fabric pattern mixes the iconic element of the fan with motifs of the natural world: flowers and branches of leaves. The layers of appliqued triangles, an aspect of the natural world of self-generation, overlay and are unified by the metallic, ancient geometric fret border. 100% cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester, and metallic ribbon.
Picasso is altogether bad, completely beside the point from the beginning except for
Cubist period and even that half misunderstood…. Ugly. Old-fashioned vulgar
without sensitivity, horrible in color or non-color. Very bad painter once and for all.”
-Alberto Giacometti on Pablo Picasso
In 2019, I offered Jim Condron a solo exhibition to display his exhibition, Trash Talk: History in Assemblage. His multi-media constructions assembled salvaged materials such as paint, thickening mediums, solvents, adhesives, fabric remnants, fur, and other materials. The works were paired with “trash talking” quotations by famous artists and authors about the work of other famous artists and authors, such as Giacometti on Picasso above. They read like assembled words stitched together with conjunctions, prepositions, and colorful adjectives. Pieced together, the works often defy logic, but the logic is bound in the act of preserving incongruous items just like a decent patchwork quilt from Aunt Lucy. The cast aside finds new relevance, new visual harmony, and sensory equivalence. Likewise, the castoff pieces of fabric and notions in this mask are imbued with a new purpose: shielding the face during the pandemic, particularly the mouth, as a metaphor to replace trash talk with, perhaps, more harmonious conversations. 100% cotton, Pellon interfacing, cotton-polyester crochet, polyester ribbon. https://www.decontemporary.org/trash-talk
Listed as one of the most influential living African American Artists, Ringgold’s work casts an honest look at racism. Influenced by the tradition of tribal masks in Ghana and Nigeria, Ringgold creates masks, soft sculptures, and story quilts. In the late 1980s, I was smitten by her book, Tar Beach. It won over 20 awards including the coveted Caldecott Honor award! The enduring power of any art is its ability to tell a story from personal experience. Ringgold tells her story on canvases populated by figures cramped in a shallow stage, in a state of suspension, using vivid color harmonies and the techniques of folk art. She was ahead of her time before the Black Lives Matter movement. Her story quilts serve as today’s rallying cries for equality and change.
The fabric for this mask comes from Ghana. Its vivid colors and patterns recall African tribal patterns and the colors in a Faith Ringgold painting. 100% Cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbon, coconut shell button.
Continuing my series paying tribute to the accomplishments of artists I either curated or respect throughout history, this one honors Rick Rothrock, founder of The Delaware Contemporary. The origin of Rothrock’s labors in founding the organization set the stage for 40 years of continued service and opportunities for artists. In 2019, I invited Rothrock and Stan Smokler to showcase their work. The exhibition, Origins, featured the arresting stone carving of Rick Rothrock complemented by Stan Smokler’s edgy welding. The exhibition not only heralded the veracity of sculpture, but work that celebrates the life forces of the earth in stone, metal, and design, where both weight and airiness flourish. Critical to Rothrock’s sculptures are the play of light and shadows in the curvilinear and organic abstractions. I conceived the origins for this mask inspired by Rothrock and as a celebration of my maternal line of seamstresses: both Grandmother and mother. Layers of fabric intersect and overlay indicating feminine ancestral connections and the imprint on my life. The interdependent fragments, that are both machine-sewn and hand-sewn are bound together; the once separate entities are now made whole unified by color harmony and visual texture. 100% Linen, 100% silk, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbon and organza.
In 2019, I invited John Singletary to display his multimedia, collaborative work in an exhibition at The Delaware Contemporary. The large-scale black and white photographs, displayed on high-tech OLED monitors, invoked the Vedic concept of unbroken sound. Figures in elaborate costumes, and dramatic make-up and masks, are captured in various poses and stages of dance. Singletary manipulated the images into sophisticated arrangements to exemplify the unbroken chain of movement in the figures, where ultimately chaos gives way to visual harmony. I created this mask using very low technology: a 1953 Singer sewing machine and a collaboration of remnants. The black and white fabric came from Ghana; the crocheted netting came from Fabric Row in Philadelphia, and the buttons came from my husband’s great aunt Dorothy, a sophisticated New York City socialite. I arranged and rearranged the pieces to mimic an unbroken sense of movement, while underscoring the visual color harmony of basic black and white.
100% cotton, Pellon interfacing, cotton-polyester crochet, polyester ribbon, and buttons.
Kyong’s most recent body of work centers around the theme of relativity. Primary forms and subtle color modulations winnow across the exhibition walls to express the perpetual movement of time and the visual articulation of mathematical equations. Her mastery is evidenced in the absence of visual brushstrokes and crisp lines that delineate positive and negative space. Harmony between individual shapes serve as a metaphor for the interconnectivity between individuals in community. In this mask, I appropriated the time-honored craft of appliqued quilting. The soft modulation of colors intersects at differing intervals. Like Kyong’s work, the movement and juxtapositions serve as a metaphor for life in community. I curated a show for her at The Delaware Contemporary in early 2020. https://www.decontemporary.org/gesture-of-motion. Cotton, polyester, Pellon interfacing, buttons.
Known for her allusions to place, memory, and fleeting moments of the unconscious, Rollins’ work pulsates with color and energetic lines. Her work embodies the spirit and energy of pure abstract design as invitations to explore underlying activity within the shapes. Yet, with all that color flowing in and through her canvases, Rollins is the preeminent lady in basic black and pearls. With this mask I took her persona and integrated her concept of abstract design to its basic motif. Instead of black lines flowing across the canvas, the dominant element now becomes the white line visually moves across the fabric in a play of intersected patterning. I curated a show of her work for The Delaware Contemporary in 2017, Eastern Poesia, which traveled to China in 2018. Cotton, polyester, Pellon interfacing. https://www.decontemporary.org/eastern-poesia
Zehr is an installation artist known to fuse sand and hand-blown glass objects in gallery settings. Cultivating mounds of colorful sand, Zehr challenges the optics of surrealistic vistas. Her work is part landscape, part earthwork, and part painterly. Using strategic lighting methods, her work glows in the mounds creating stunning visual sensations. Taking cue from the visually stunning earthwork, I chose fabric with vibrant, tropical colors. I cut around the flower pattern, fused it to the fabric, then top-stitched it in place. In doing so, the wearer and the viewer can experience their own metaphysical and transformative experience. I curated a show, Fusion, featuring Connie Zehr and Allen C. Smith for The Delaware Contemporary in 2018. https://www.decontemporary.org/fusion
Bold cast shadows, nuanced depth of field, and the carefully composed images capture life in couture, on the streets, and the inner soul on the faces of people Gigi Stoll meets. Her black and white photos have appeared in magazines such as Marie Claire Brazil, Glamour, Wall Street Journal, British Vogue, Vogue Paris, Oprah Magazine, and many others. Yet, it’s her humanitarian work as a photographer documenting and shooting stills on NGO missions with Operation International Kids that transformed her own inner soul. With deep respect for her skills, work ethic, and aesthetic, I tapped into my own Vogue aesthetic using sophisticated ribbons and asymmetrical arrangement. The free-flowing stitches meandering across the mask unifies the design. Stoll participated in the recent group exhibition I curated for The Delaware Contemporary: Focal Points: Expanding the Aperture. Cotton, silk lining, polyester ribbons, Pellon interfacting, and buttons. https://www.decontemporary.org/focal-points
For Lewis, paint is the instrument which speaks to the improvisational nature of jazz. Pattern and asymmetrical balance, harmony and dissonance, all sit in dialectic tension and form the basic filaments of energy throughout his work. Layers of paint, line, color, and light twist and turn beckoning the rhythms of jazz. Having curated a large-scale exhibition of Lewis’ work for The Delaware Contemporary, which opened in October of 2019, I designed this mask inspired by Lewis’ signature piece the museum used for publicity. Here, beribboned lines, color, and dots of buttons summon the aesthetic sensitivities of the Jamaican-American master artist. 100% Linen, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbons, buttons.
Emma Amos (d. May 2020) belonged to the radical art collectives, Spiral, and subsequently, Guerilla Girls, whose activism addressed misogyny in the art history world. She famously quipped that she was a member of a “famous clandestine women’s group that worked at night and did not ever go without masks on our faces.” Her life, artistic legacy, and activism mattered. Now that we don’t go anywhere without masks on our faces, her series “Falling” inspired this design. Whereas Amos painted figures or objects that appear to be tumbling through space, I sewed buttons that dance across the mask like dandelion seedheads tumbling in the air. Though her canvases beamed with color and figurative imagery, I chose a neutral palette and abstract design. The simple composition belies the time-consuming labor put forth to assemble—hand-sewing leather and all those tiny buttons. Cotton polyester brown jacquard weave, leather, buttons, Pellon interfacing, silk lining, polyester ribbon.
In this second series of Asian Fusion, I’m using the fan motif, the ancient craft so emblematic of Japanese culture that mixed pragmatism, expediency, and beauty. It was used as a fashion accessory to cool off in sticky hot summers. It was associated with Japanese culture to communicate messages. And it was included on silk road trade routes. Now, as a contemporary “art to wear” craft it is infused with a little metalica to help ward off the current pestilence. The fabric pattern mixes the iconic element of the fan with motifs of the natural world: flowers and butterflies. The chrysanthemum symbolizes autumn and is associated with long life; the butterfly symbolizes joy. The layers of appliqued triangles, an aspect of the natural world of self-generation, intersect and are unified by the ancient geometric fret border. 100% cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester, and metallic ribbon.
The Swiss-German painter was known as a master color theorist, whose work reflects his interest in musicality with color harmony directly analogous to musical composition. In the early 1900s, Klee experimented with overlapping blocks of color, an emphasis on surface pattern, and draftsmanship. For Klee, color represented optimism. I found inspiration in two of his paintings, Sinbad the Sailor and Moonshine. The embroidered disks represent the moon; the pattern in the fabric echoes the blocks of color as seen in the two Klee paintings. Although with all his optimism, the Nazis in the mid-thirties seized over 100 of Paul Klee’s paintings. Cotton, polyester, Pellon interfacing.
Piet Mondrian is best known for his graphic rectangle, square, and thick black line paintings. His work influenced subsequent artists, and eventually, his iconic motifs found echoes in fashion, furniture, and hair products: think L’Oreal; and who can forget the fabulous Mondrian dresses by Yves St. Laurent from the mid-60s?! As Mondrian used colors, lines, and shapes in paint to achieve a visual rhythmic effect, I’ve merely taken up the common ribbon to achieve a contemporary fashionable effect by adding diagonals for a more dynamic impact. Cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbon.
Lugo is known for creating large-scale vessels as a metaphor for containment, reliquary urns that commemorate lives once lived. Lugo grew up in a neighborhood where drug use and gang activity prevailed. His “activism through ceramics” directly engages with the community. By using the traditional technique of transferware, glaze, and gold luster to cast imagery of lost lives, he “flattens” the narrative of lives lost to systemic racism. In doing so, the story becomes more digestible, inviting dialogue. In dialogue, misconceptions are released and change can happen. Inspired by Lugo’s aesthetic and activism, I created this abstract mask. Jarring juxtapositions, layers of various materials that are both fragile and strong, it’s a reminder of our collective humanity. That in our fragility we are stronger together, united by common decency and respect. Cotton, polyester, sequins, buttons, Pellon interfacing.
Lugo’s work was on display at The Delaware Contemporary in 2017: https://www.decontemporary.org/jarring
Elevating the classic and ever playful polka dot. Hundreds of years ago dots symbolized the plague. In the mid-1800s, it surfaced in the context of fashion. In the early-1920s, the Miss America pageant saw them, and then Minnie Mouse set the real stage for polka dot fever. Dior sophisticated the dots in the 1950s, and now, in the context of the current world plague, I’ve created a statement of contemporary haute couture. The silk black and white dot material, purchased overseas by my mother, are remnants of a blouse I made a few years ago in her memory. Cotton, polyester, silk, Pellon interfacing.
Ola Rondiak’s work weaves news clippings, sewing patterns, and paint to visualize metaphors of Ukraine and to give voice to the invincible spirit of women. She’s a girly-girl, feminine to the extreme, but she’s also a force to be reckoned with. Her family lived through historical events of WWII, Stalin’s Iron Curtain, and two revolutions—2004 and 2014. Her unique imagery imprints a sense of power while honoring her beloved ancestors’ strengths and gifts. As Rondiak’s work lends a visceral point of entry to engage viewers in memory and materiality, this “art to wear” mask not only lends homage to Rondiak’s multilayered work and the spirit of women but serves as a barrier point of entry for the current unwelcomed intruder, Covid-19. Cotton, polyester, Pellon interfacing. I curated her for The Delaware Contemporary in 2017, Behind the Lines: https://www.decontemporary.org/tempora-mutantur
Fourth in the series, I continue to explore Asian motifs and mask design. The Fan, an ancient craft, emblematic of Japanese culture, mixed pragmatism, expediency, and beauty. It was used as a fashion accessory to cool off in sticky hot summers. It was associated with Japanese culture to communicate messages. And it was included on silk road trade routes. Now, as a contemporary “art to wear” craft it is infused with a little metalica to help ward off the current pestilence. The fabric pattern mixes the iconic element of the fan with motifs of the natural world: flowers and branches of leaves. The layers of appliqued triangles, an aspect of the natural world of self-generation, overlay and segmented, and are unified by the metallic, ancient geometric fret border. 100% cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester, and metallic ribbon.
Homage to Paula Gately Tillman
Tillman is a photographer living and working in Baltimore. She is known for her black and white images of “underground scenes and fringe personalities.” Her portfolio includes the bustling street scenes of New York City, but Venice stole her heart. In 2001, she created the series, Venice is a Dream: A Childhood Memory. These stunning images of interiors, with a sophisticated vantage point, reveal tableaus of light streaming through sweeping draperies on the floor-to-ceiling windows of the 18th century Ca’ Rezzonico Museum. I designed this black and white mask with an abstract, vertical orientation to imply the window drapery Tillman captured in her Venice series. I curated three from her series into the exhibition, Focal Points: Women Advancing the Aperture at The Delaware Contemporary, February 2020. https://www.decontemporary.org/focal-points
100% cotton, polyester ribbon and trimming, buttons, Pellon interfacing.
Flower Power 2 Mask
Continuing with the Flower Power series to explore designs featuring flowers, I created this second mask. Originated in Berkeley, CA, Flower Power became synonymous with the sub-cultural hippie movement began in the 1960s, its psychedelic arts, and the anti-Vietnam War protests. Protestors carried flowers, flags, and posters inscribed with the word LOVE. The art of Milton Glaser and Peter Max propelled the flower power phenomenon with their designs for the Beatles’ films or Bob Dylan’s posters. The 1960s also birthed the remarkably creative “art to wear” movement. Relegated to their studios, textile artists took time-honored techniques of crochet, embroidery, and applique with various cottons, woolens, felt, and recycled items to fashion a bold new personal vision related to socio-political issues. Artists liberated from the constraints of social norms to the spirit of the age took inspiration from every corner of their existence and harvested new concepts for expression in their one-of-a-kind wearable works. Music, folklore imagery, modern art, and the environment all embodied the language that offered infinite possibilities for patterns and texture and channeling the aggregate of emotions of the time. This one-of-a-kind wearable work of art contains a motif of felt flowers intersected by vintage polka-dot ribbon in homage to these two movements. 100% Cotton, felt, Pellon interfacing, polyester ribbon.
Homage to Picasso
The “Harlequin” stems from the 16th century folklore of a pantomime clown, whose day job was a cunning servant bereft of any scruples and characterized by a black mask and regalia covered in patches, from whence the pattern of repeated diamond shapes derive. The shenanigans included enlightened self-interest in the pursuit of Columbine, wife of Pierrot. By the turn of the 20th century, the harlequin became a ubiquitous pop icon and caught the attention of Picasso. His early works included his new favorite subject material in his repertoire to symbolize his alter-ego—objects of love and the wandering outcast. Who knew! His later works exhibit cubistic abstraction as he sought to reexamine his identity: by distorting the old he rebrands a new identity within the genre of cubism. The Harlequin’s costume of flat, bright colors, and bold, repeated surface pattern correlates to the cubist sensitivities of fragmentation. In this mask, I’ve assimilated the characteristics in a bold, decorative surface design employing fabric in a diamond-shaped pattern counterbalanced by sassy buttons and lively ribbons. 100% Cotton, polyester ribbon, buttons, Pellon interfacing.
Homage Natalie Hutchings, MCM 1 mask series
Hutchings is a multidisciplinary artist, futurist, and educator. She received her MFA from the University of Delaware in Studio Art. But it was her BFA from Towson University in Interdisciplinary Object Design, a hybrid of digital fabrication, craft, and sculpture that seized my attention. As a result, I invited Hutchings to compete in the coveted Hennessy Experiment at The Delaware Contemporary, for which she landed a spot in January 2020. Her room-with-a-view exhibition explores the classic MCM (mid-century modern) diner. Using hand-fabricated iconic aluminum vintage tables and other familiar props in an all-too-perfect awkward uniformity belie something less palatable: institutionalized racism that still exists today. Hutchings dares to subvert the script by inviting viewers “to question their own version of reality” or flip the script by reexamining their own role in promoting a kinder, more inclusive alternative reality. With Hutchings in mind, I created this mask with fabric right out of MCM color and design, buttons from Great Aunt Dorothy’s 1960s collection, and embroidered trim roundels that echo the fabric’s pattern. 100% Cotton, polyester ribbon and notions, Pellon interfacing.
MCM 2 mask series
This series was inspired by Natalie Hutchings, a multidisciplinary artist, futurist, and educator. Her room-with-a-view exhibition at The Delaware Contemporary in January 2020 explored the classic MCM (mid-century modern) diner. Using hand-fabricated iconic aluminum vintage tables and other familiar props in an all-too-perfect awkward uniformity belie something less palatable: institutionalized racism that still exists today. Hutchings’ work dares to subvert the script by inviting viewers “to question their own version of reality” or flip the script by reexamining their own role in promoting a kinder, more inclusive alternative reality. With Hutchings in mind once again I created this mask using fabric so emblematic of MCM color and design, buttons from Great Aunt Dorothy’s 1960s collection, and embroidered trim roundels that echo the fabric’s pattern. 100% Cotton, polyester ribbon and notions, Pellon interfacing. https://www.decontemporary.org/hennessy-experiment-hutchings
MCM 3 mask series
This is the last mask in the series inspired by Natalie Hutchings, a multidisciplinary artist, futurist, and educator. Her room-with-a-view exhibition at The Delaware Contemporary in January 2020 explored the classic MCM (mid-century modern) diner. Using hand-fabricated iconic aluminum vintage tables and other familiar props in an all-too-perfect awkward uniformity belie something less palatable: institutionalized racism that still exists today. Hutchings’ work dares to subvert the script by inviting viewers “to question their own version of reality” or flip the script by reexamining their own role in promoting a kinder, more inclusive alternative reality. With Hutchings in mind one last time, I created this mask with the same MCM-inspired fabric and embroidered trim roundels that echo the fabric’s pattern. The colors and the horizontality of the ribbons at the lower edge recall two key characteristics of MCM homes. 100% Cotton, polyester ribbon and notions, Pellon interfacing.
I was challenged to come up with a design with remnants from a major big box outlet. And this is what I came up with!
In 1967, Columbia Pictures presented the movie, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” It’s tagline, “a love story of today” depicted interracial marriage, which was significant given that interracial marriage was still illegal in some states in 1967. It’s listed in the US National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And it’s one of my favorite movies. It stars Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Sidney Poitier, a triumvirate if there ever was one. While the family dialectics ultimately crescendos into a visceral conclusion, I’ve always been drawn to the mother, Katharine Hepburn’s character. She’s an art gallery owner and always dressed to the nines with her wardrobe consisting of blacks and golds, cremes and browns. Taking cue from her trousseau, I fashioned this mask. It too is a love story. The silk fabric came from my maternal grandmother, whose maternal ancestor intermarried, hence the contrast of colors. The diagonal arrangement, the buttons, an assortment of Italian designer and inherited inventory, and the ribbons, all combine to add a textural and aesthetic dynamic making this mask, culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant to me. And it sports my new name tag! Cotton, silk, Pellon interfacing, and designer buttons.
Expanding on the Asian Fusion series, I continue to explore motifs for mask design. The peony is emblematic of Japanese and Chinese culture symbolizing romance and good fortune. The frog clasp is not an amphibian reference, but a decorative, (perhaps a hybrid application from the Chinese knot) for a garment closure. Here I attached it juxtaposed vertically to the horizontal motifs of the ribbons. The two fabric patterns mix the iconic element of the peony with other motifs of the natural world: butterflies and flower stems. The layers represent self-generation and are unified by the two ribbons. 100% cotton, Pellon interfacing, polyester.
The following gallery of masks reveals a series I completed in August 2020. The Delaware Contemporary commissioned them as a must-have accessory for their gala event, Art & Couture: A Contemporary Centennial. There are nine styles in this series, with each mask named after prominent activists in the American Suffrage movement. <https://www.decontemporary.org/art-couture>
Between the years 1848 and 1920 women steadfastly marched with heart and voice to galvanize progress toward equality. Even during the 1918-19 pandemic, they remained resolute with their message: women deserved equally with men the right to vote. To get the votes to ratify the 13th amendment they needed their exterior attire to align patently with feminine ideals, while clandestinely engaging in subversive activities. Wishing to avoid derision and stereotype they eschewed eccentricity and spinsteresque masculinity. By emancipating the female body from the prison of stifling corsets and crinolines tailor-made suits and elegant dresses with sashes, ties, and waistbands became the gold standard in their apparel, notwithstanding their sophisticated chignons. The drive for equality coincided with reforms in fashion. For the Suffragettes, reforms in fashion stitched effective visual propaganda. It is believed that Alice Paul and others worked with the British suffragists to bring suffragist colors to America. The movement later adopted the colors purple, white, and gold as their own banner of identity. Gold symbolizes enlightenment; purple for justice; white for purity. It was color, not style of dress, that created the dynamic, democratic visual presence. The uniformity was both “feminine and militant” crossing socio-economic lines for any and all to participate.