I made this piece for my friend Susan, who is currently undergoing a second round of chemotherapy, following surgery for breast cancer. I'd say there wouldn't be a woman alive who didn't feel a quick, sharp hurt on reading that last sentence. I know I do. Take what you want, but leave my boobs.
Making making making. Most people I love end up with some kind of artwork from me. Making this for Susan was and is my way of saying all the love things.
I imagine these body masks as models of full human scale constructions, large enough so one could stand up inside it, inhabit. They’re ‘full body masks’.
I've thought a lot about this piece. I always think too much and with this, I've been thinking how differently beautiful Susan is now, scarf around her fuzzy skull. The planes of her face, her queenly bearing; the way she holds herself as if a power greater than herself walks right alongside. I'm in admiration of a woman who seems more her own person right now, than at any time before. Her body must look very different from the everyday good health it had just a few months ago and would have to be something about which she has been given a fair amount of thought. Her privacy is subject to other's examination.
I imagined her Body Mask on a small, very protective scale, a concentration of her in a way, worn smooth but wearing a rich patina. It bears the pits and scars wrought by the passing of years and an abundance of experiences; evidence of a good life, now gracefully offered up.
I wanted to make her feel better & know that she's not alone. I wanted to make her a moment of quiet calm & self possession with the whole piece centered on the mask, a shell that holds itself upright, almost hovering, poised & perfectly balanced by some seemingly impossible power. For strength.
The palm tree and the shape of the background allude imagined perspectives and dimension/scale contradictions and hopefully now the entire piece is balancing perfectly as a whole. Wish I could say the same for myself. I'm overwrought at the best of times and this piece was on & off the workbench for around three weeks.
Again, I think what I was endeavouring to do here, was not only offer Susan some comfort, that she is cared for and valued but that the person she is inside, her Susan-ness, will always be safe and whole, protected always by that power greater than herself. That its all beautiful.
Because the way I think of it, these body masks contain our souls.
Its not a big thing, 80 x 140 x 35mm. To give some idea of it's scale, the rug in the diorama below is a standard size mouse mat. Little thing.
The back piece is made from MDF with lacquered gloss finish under gilded hand cut paper lace. Mask component made from aluminium mesh & plaster with enamel/wax/pigment patina. Palm tree (well, do we not live in a (sub) tropical paradise here in Sydney?) is handcut clear acrylic sheet with acrylic & enamel spray paint on reverse; black mirror effect, tricky to photo without annoying reflections. Base is cut to the shape of the shadow the piece throws; I shone a light from the back & to the left, slightly above the level of the peak, & drew the shadow lines. As above, rare earth magnets are very cool. Small ABS plastic architectural scale model of 'young girl', gold leaf with acrylic & oil paint patina.
For my friend Susan, with love.