Small Sculpture in Texas ©1993, 2000 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Mask Show

The following story was written from notes found shortly before showing this and other books at Artisana Gallery in summer 1993. The original, Mask Show was a 1986 Christmas invitational of 46 artists at Conduit gallery. The notes were fragmentary but intriguing. Some of the more interesting works I responded to at this superb exhibition included:

Polly Little's carved oak and bark 'tree spirit' mask and her husband, Mark Lavatelli's, slightly larger-than-life foam-core construction comprising layers of gesso and painted acrylic. It was one of the few wearable masks in the show—and had the traditional feeling of a primitive mask—perhaps due to his use of sisal and other "primitive" materials. Standing back and looking at it, it becomes apparent that the design comes right out of his paintings-a 3-D extension of his 2-D work.

Philip Van Keuren's mask of perfect, lacquered birch appeared to be masonite. Flawless in simple black & white, it is shallow, like a hockey mask, showing distinct oriental influences. Objectively rendered, with no hints of emotion or feeling, it was rendered so perfectly it must have taken hours—steaming the birch and building up layers of lacquer.

The back was as well done as the front. He selected a right wing feather to match the left wing feather, so they would lie flat, correct. This is consummate craftsmanship, exquisite. "Yes. Who is it? You. Come in myself." says this Zen Mask.

Albert Scherbarth's Unself, 27 x 19 x 4", black and white mask of lacquered wood has slightly jutted-out ears, a scratchy smirky smile, no eyes, a crown top and blank face full of punk devices-Xs, squiggles, swirls, cones, hash marks, etc.


John Hernandez' Target Earth is an a visually zany, astrally layered construction of an enormous third eyeball-an olfactory organ like an egg with hairs (sillia) around it. Its poster-paint-bright drooling mouth, and attentive detail belie its far-out humor.

Ellen Soderquist's minimalist mask-Waiting for Pirandello's Invitation to the Masked Ball-was a small black and white drawing with a mask of color. A figure slumped into a chair, instep arched, holds a mast on a stick. While the actual face is colored, the piece is black and white. A heavy black scribble weighs the background.

Nicholas Wood's recognizable, angular struts formed a mask-like shape of stripped black, pink, blue & turquoise clay, and Frances Bagley's slick, wet-look cedar-lacquer wood shard mask had rays of small sticks emanating from the central twisted/ squished box. Painter Betsy Belcher's very primitive, very flat, cubist King of the Sidelong Glances was beautiful in subdued yellow, red, black and gray.

Nancy Ferro's Nest Builder of wood, intaglio and canvas looked like a Kachina doll, stylized in turquoise, sand browns, red and yellow highlights-very traditional Indian shapes with dangling dowel and colored thread fetishes.

Renee Tanner's Urban Survival Mask was a found-art, World War III gas mask with a cylindrical rubber cartridge snout. It was black with one shattered goggle. Margaret Van Waggoner's Boogie Woogie Woman was brightly polychromed in acrylic, paper mache and wood. Very primitive in shape, and sharply angular.

Pamela Nelson's glittered mask had an attached hand, shyly covering the mouth. The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face comprised lithoplate and a wonderful detaillia of polished stones, plastic eyeballs, embroidery, rhinestones on string flowers, and glitter stars. This Bali-like mask's areas are delineated by stippled patterning, fake pearls and mirror shards.

previously unpublished


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