The David Owsley Museum of Art contains an extensive collection of masks from around the world. This February, DOMA held a two-day workshop led by Aaron Nicholson that drew inspiration from the museum’s African collection. The workshop participants learned about the various masks in the museum’s collection and the forms of media that were used. The goal for this workshop was to build a mask made from recycled objects or objects found in nature. Afterwards, the participants displayed their masks at Muncie Make Labs for the monthly downtown event, First Thursday, in Muncie.
Aaron began the workshop in the Africa Gallery where he explained the various masks’
principles of design and their purpose. He wanted the participants to have visual references when creating their own masks. Most of the masks in DOMA’s African collection are made from natural materials. One of the most interesting facts was that, according to history, skin-covered helmets and masks were made from the skin of the tribe’s slaves, but overtime they switched to using antelope skin. The masks also possess various animal characteristics that reference aggression and strength to establish social order, fear, or scare away the bad spirits at funerals.
Everyone returned to the studio where Nicholson gave a tutorial on mask building and braiding metal wire. The next task required the participants to go outside, and required a drill, plyers, while two people braided one wire. When the assignment was done, the participants had braided sixty-six strands of wire.
The participants returned to the studio where they spent the remainder of the day building the bases for their own mask. After day one was complete Nicholson requested that the participants take their masks home to work on during the week. He provided the participants with duct tape, chicken wire, cardboard, fabric, ribbon, clay, and other various materials.
Nicholson began day two with a discussion on utilizing papier-mâché, plaster molds, and clay in creating a mask. He discussed artists, such as Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti, and the various techniques they used when working with plaster in their sculptures. A few of the participants built a clay mold to pour plaster in, while another participant dipped burlap into the plaster mixture and draped it over her wire frame. Nicholson wanted this workshop to have freedom for expression and creativity.
By the end of the workshop, the result was a variety of masks that possessed their own unique qualities and were made from various materials, such as duct tape, records, medicine bottles, yarn, feathers, beads, aluminum foil, etc. One of the participants commented, “I wish I had more time.” For many of the participants, this workshop was a break for them to make time for art, while for others this was their first experience with DOMA’s Artist Workshop Series. At the end, the participants agreed that this was a fun and unique workshop and more classes should continue to be offered at the David Owsley Museum of Art.