I've always been fascinated with masks and mask making. It is probably one of the reasons I went into theatre to begin with. I jumped at every opportunity to design masks for plays and incorporated mask making techniques into my makeup and properties classes whenever I could. But I hadn't explored masks in themselves until I began my Ph.D. studies at SIUC.
I began researching the cultural roots of masks and mask making and was fortunate to attend the International Mask Conference at the University of Iowa in 2000. There I met many masks artisans and hooked up with Joan Schirle and Newman of the Dell Arte International School of Physical Theater.
In 2003 I attended the Dell Arte Balinese Study Abroad program in mask carving for eight weeks studying under master carver I. Ketut Molog. This Mask Making page includes an article on my experiences in Bali, a gallery of masks I carved while in Bali and several others I've carved on my return to the states. I've also included earlier masks I made from other materials.
For the last several years I've been researching the cultural roots of masks and mask making. This study culminated in the Behind The Masks, Art History & Culture Exhibition at our University Museum.
This conference hosted over 150 mask artisans, performers, researchers and students from numerous countries who came to SIU to share their knowledge and insights. The conference focused on the theme of mask transformation in the areas of art, performance, culture, psychology, cultural anthropology and history. A total of 75 papers, posters, performances, workshops, and exhibitions were presented during the 4 ½ day venue with activities and events extending to numerous departments and colleges of our university as well as the southern Illinois community.
In conjunction with the museum exhibition was the international and interdisciplinary Masks of Transformation Conference on masks and masking hosted by our Department of Theater. This event highlighted 125 cultural masks from their permanent collection augmented by loans from private and personal collections. The Contemporary Mask Makers section of this exhibit featured the works of 35 exciting mask artisans working in a variety of traditional and contemporary mediums. Visits to these exhibitions have broken Museum attendance records with over 5,500 people visiting these exhibits. The Conference coincided with the city of Carbondale's In Celebration: Arts & Ethnic Festival, which introduced another 1000 members of the southern Illinois community to mask making workshops and performances.
Use the links below to to see the conference poster, session schedule and presenter's bios.
This is an HTML version of the mask carving article I published in Theatre Design & Technology, Winter 2004. It includes additional descriptions and illustrations of the carving process that were edited out of the TD&T article due to space limitations.