Contributed by Lindsay Randall
Masks are one of the most visual elements of a culture, often used to transform the wearer during rituals, ceremonies, or other events. The use of masks dates back thousands of years, at least to the Neolithic period some 9,000 years ago or much earlier. Many of our masks are believed to be from Mexico. Two years ago work duty students began researching some of the masks in our collection. While not complete, their work has been invaluable for the classes we teach. Recently the Peabody pulled all the masks from our collection to share with students in Therese Zemlin’s art classes.
One class has an assignment to make a 3 dimensional clay gargoyle. By studying the Peabody’s masks students investigate how artist’s created expressions, developed the proportions of facial features, and how human and animal features were melded together. The other class is learning to perceive minute details that are otherwise missed when we assume we understand what we see.
After looking at the masks and talking with me, the students are given time to begin sketching a mask of their choosing. This helps them to focus their attention even more and to gain a more intimate appreciation of the object in front of them, which will in turn aid them with their art projects.
To see some of the masks that the Peabody has visit our online catalog: http://peabody.pastperfect-online.com/40391cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=5114D1BC-AAD1-4BF5-A8B7-271626649170;type=101