Friday, March 15, 2013

Family Life Masks

Some 30 years ago my mother commissioned Willa Shalit (daughter of Gene Shalit) to make life masks of the immediate family. The masks are low resolution plaster bandage casts as opposed to higher resolution casts achieved by molds made from alginate or silicone. In these, every detail and pore are not revealed but, in that something somehow is gained. As fascinating as medical grade surface information can be in it's portrayal of every nuance, crease and crevice, it sometimes distracts us from the underlying geometries and those beauties and truths therein. A good friend of mine had described it as the difference between a sketch and a highly finished drawing. Sometimes the sketch is more beautiful.

As time marched on the masks had discolored, 3 decades of dirt had settled in unflattering ways. My mother asked me if I could restore them and give them a scenic bronze finish. The masks were lightly spackled, primed and given a quick deliberately rough faux bronze paint treatment as they would be mounted high on a wall over a bay window and need to be read at a distance.

There was a strangeness returning to these masks. Children are a frightening clock. In these masks, my mother is approximately my age and I am my daughters. As I moved the masks around my studio, looking for interesting settings and light, I posed my mothers mask with the cast of Sonia with here eyes opened. There's a startling "Back to the Future"effect in that suddenly Bubby's the same age as Pops and Sonia's the same age as my youngest sister, Nikki.

My father's mask is conspicuously missing from these photos. My parents divorce was particularly bitter and my mother no longer wanted it in the house. My fathers face now finds it's self in my younger sister, Alisa's home.

These masks also signifiy my introduction to life casting. Shortly after these masks were cast I would serve as Willa's assitant for a series of classes that she taught in plaster bandage and alginate life casting at the New York Accadamy.

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