Thursday, July 19, 2012

Death Masks

     Today's find in a box from yesterday's shed cleaning project is a mask I made in high school from a slip cast mold of my art teacher's face. I remember him rubbing petroleum jelly on his face and hair, stuffing his nose with tissue, placing his face through a hole in the back of a box, and holding a paper roll in his mouth so he could breath while a student poured plaster over his face. I also remember this not being planned too far in advance, sort of on a whim; which is how most things seemed to happen in that classroom and which I enjoyed thoroughly. I decided to push the features of the mask around while it was still soft to make a sort of death mask to which my teacher replied, "Oh, thank you very MUCH!" (I also remember that during the time in which this was made I was into Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allen Poe.) After the mask was fired I finished it with colored pencil and washes of acrylic paint.
     I decided to photograph it with a bronze mask I made of my own face during my undergraduate studies. The mold was taken using alginate which is skin safe and sets quickly. The only weak spot was my nose where the mold was too thin. I had to build the nose up with wax before dipping it in the investment material. I finished the bronze cast with a black patina. Two casts were made. The second was left plain, without patina, and my mother keeps it in her home.
     It is interesting to see the similarities and differences in material and appearance between the two masks. Recently I wrote a short lesson plan on mask making for my future students, complete with plans for wearing the masks in procession around campus during a time of peak activity like a lunch break. I can't wait to see how that turns out.
     There are numerous sites on the web for death masks. This one loads quickly and provides images of death masks of historical figures.

1 comment:

Eugene Brosseau said...

And here's a link to my teacher's blog and masks he's made over the years: