Q: Many of the world’s cultures have a mask tradition. Is there something special about Bolivian masks that first attracted you to them?

July 8, 2023

Bolivian Carnival Mask

A: My subject matter emerges directly from my travels. I visited Bolivia in 2017. What I especially liked then – and now – about Bolivian Carnival masks, is that they include additional textures – feathers, fur, costume jewelry, sequins, fabric, etc. that add to their physical presence. Masks from most of the other countries I’ve visited tend to be made of wood and/or paper mache and nothing else. In my view such masks are not as dramatic nor do they offer much expressive potential. They feel dead. They lack a certain “soulfulness.”

Furthermore, textures are challenging to render in soft pastel. For more than three decades I have been striving to improve my pastel techniques. By now I have a vast repertoire from which to select. As was true in my earlier series, with “Bolivianos” an important personal goal is to keep adding to the repertoire.

It takes months to create a pastel painting, which means I need masks that will hold my attention every day over the course of three or four months. I never want to be bored in the studio. If I am bored while making the work, those feelings will be directly transferred and I will make a boring pastel painting, something I hope never to do! The masks need to have a really strong ‘presence.’ Then as I slowly make a pastel painting, one that is exciting to work on from start to finish, I can transform my subject into something surprising and powerful that has never existed before!

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