Archive for May, 2017

Monster-building (Eleven Monsters)

Making this post for people who may not be able to attend. I’m very pleased to have two of my masks (both of them, brand new never-before-seen works, exhibited at tonight’s “Behind The Mask” event, May 12, 2017) at the Albany Barn. I began using plaster and wire to build elaborate decorative masks some years ago, and the event was an exciting opportunity.

These past couple years I have become active as a Certified Peer Specialist, and this is not the first time my work as an artist has overlapped my personal experience as well as my work in the field of mental health as a peer. I knew pretty quickly the idea I was going to develop for these to masks –but more on that later.

I began with some concept sketches.


Hymn/the 400, concept sketch, acrylic on gessoed paper



Concept sketch, Hymn/the 400, in charcoal on paper. Sometimes when Hymn appears, his limbs are distorted, or in this case truncated.


The Nails, concept sketch, charcoal on paper.



Hymn/the 400 charcoal and acrylic paint on gessoed paper.


The Nails, charcoal and acrylic paint on gessoed paper.

After several renderings of each idea, I had a pretty good idea of the direction I was going. After that I began to twist wire, like so:

Making Monsters 3

Wire armature, “Hymn/the 400”

The cloth and plaster makes building a mask in this style somewhat hard to wear, as they are extraordinarily heavy. The armatures for these had to be constructed thoughtfully to distribute the mask’s weight, and anchor the plaster to a frame.

The armature for “The Nails” ended up much more intricate and heavier. The extra wire was needed to support a large lower jaw full of carpentry nails.  I twisted and cut the wire to build the masks in several sessions over 2 days –then it was on to plastering:


Boxes of plaster, and an assortment of tools.


A pile of cloth strips, seen here with one of the concept drawings for “Hymn”

After stretching the cloth over each frame, the cloth was then coated with another layer of plaster (using a painting brush). The masks then were allowed to dry over twenty-four hours, sanded, and finally painted


Starting the process of painting.

The painting took two separate sessions, the paint was allowed to dry between sessions. Finally, a layer of high-gloss poly/epoxy was added to make the finishing touch.


Finally, our two masks:



Making Monsters 2

“The Nails” decorative mask, wire, plaster, cloth, nails and oil paint. ($600).



“Hymn/the 400” Decorative mask. Wire, cloth, plaster, and oil paint. ($750).



Hymn/the 400, side view.


For purposes of explanation, I am including my artist’s explanation, as it will appear tonight at the gallery:

“Most of us live with monsters. Most of us live with nagging voices of self-doubt and critique in our heads. For some people, these interior monologues become recognized as entities separate from the person experiencing them.  They take on personalities, affect, and motivation separate from the individual. The discipline, psychiatry, recognizes this and names the person’s experience one of several diagnostic terms. Treatment for these illnesses often involves heavy psychotropic medication and repeated hospitalizations.

Since the 1970’s, the Peer Movement (Mad Pride movement) has developed alternative ways of both treating symptoms and understanding their significance. Advocates have had some successes changing the nature of mental health care in the United States to one that empowers individuals.

The artist, in 2014, attended a seminar with UK Mental Health peer advocate, Ron Coleman. Coleman himself is a voice-hearer, and at the seminar the artist was introduced to the idea of “voice profiling.” The masks, with the materials explaining them, are in fact a development of Coleman’s idea of voice profiling. Using a mask-building technique the artist learned as an undergrad at The College of Saint Rose, the masks are the artist’s re-creation and imagining of the voices which have accompanied the nearly two decades of his illness in adult life.”