This Thanksgiving Day, I released a work I’ve kept under wraps for several years: The Mask of Dionysos, Greek god of wine, feasting, fertility, and pleasure, among other things. It’s now available on Etsy.
My art masks are an old, on-going body of works playing with the idea of masks as religious icons and theatrical personas. This piece portrays Dionysos as a figure of fertility and magical life force, with the wine-red face color, references to various intoxicants the god was associated with, the twisting, snake-like grape vines, and the darkened scene of the moonlit temple over which the mask hangs.
It took me a long time to get this object to tell the story I wanted. The mask was designed years ago, but I held it back till 2008 as I searched for the right framing or “niche” for it. Even then, I held onto, until I was certain of it. When you’re working, as I like to do, with “craftsy” materials like artificial grapes, it can be a challenge to stay out of what I think of as the “craft quagmire,” in which things come out looking more like crafts than art. Craft is perfectly legitimate, of course, but it’s a different effect than what I’m hoping for with this object. I’ll leave it to viewers to decide if I got it.
By the way, treated as a persona, this mask could, technically, be removed from the frame and worn. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. First it’s fragile, as it incorporates natural plant parts. Second, it’s front-heavy, due to the angle of the crown, making it difficult to wear with the simple ties I made for it. But technically, it could be done, making this a true mask. I may consider making a second version of it specifically for wearing.
Until then, I am finally ready to let this one out on a day dedicated feasting and happiness: Dionysos!