New year new work body mask for Susan

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.



 Late night. All done

Late night. All done

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. 

 The surface is shiny, cool to the touch and marked by it's making

The surface is shiny, cool to the touch and marked by it's making

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. 

In making these, I think about the masks we wear every day, how these masks are in constant flux, shape shifting with us as we make great efforts to describe and confine ourselves into…who knows what. Against the broad, beautiful flow of life, the extraordinary beauty of creation, we draw our own limits, creating our own ‘outsides’. Sometimes they’re approximately true and sometimes they’re re-packaged earlier versions with an updated, more glamorous spin and sometimes they’re hastily patched together with whatever positive affirmation that’s close to hand and a lot of the time they have no bearing as to the state of our insides at all. Body masks have this duality, plurality that fascinates me; I imagine them hard yet fragile, like they’re both protective yet open to opportunities, with the capacity to either guard against or hold safe some central inner truth; careworn and polished by the passing years that mark our time. I like making them because I can pick them up & hold them in the palm of my hand, just as I imagine my God holds me.

Mask is kept in position, perfectly balanced via Rare Earth magnets, one countersunk into the base and another within the Mask. It's held, invisibly and with irresistible force.

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.