Many years ago I worked at an art college. Each year the entering students were given an assignment to create a spirit mask and bring it with them to orientation. The mask had several purposes - it was an opportunity for the entering students to show their artistic talents and to reveal a bit of themselves.
The primary means of feedback from faculty to students in the college was through critiques. At various points in the course of the year the students would present their work to their fellow students, their professors, and sometimes to visiting artists. In most departments the critique was an interactive process with the student there to explain the techniques, and thought processes which went into their work. The spirit masks also provided the new students with their first taste of the critique process. In small groups the students presented their masks beginning the dialogue which would carry them through their college career and on into their life as artists.
Orientation ended with an exhibit of the spirit masks with a reception for the college community. It was always interesting to see the work of the incoming students and to try to figure out what they were trying to say with those masks. And I've wondered what those masks would look like at graduation time - what changes would be revealed.
I've never made a spirit mask, but because of my exposure to them during those years, I have thought about it. I don't easily reveal myself - I hesitate before "coming out" (although marriage has made that easier), I don't reveal my innermost thoughts. I worry too much about what others think of me. I wear a mask every day. What would I reveal if I made a spirit mask? How would I explain it? What would people think of me then?
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