To mask or not to mask? That, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is the Covid-19 question. Some people want to wear masks. Some do not. Of those who do wear masks, many opt for a simple face covering. However, some people are rising to the occasion by creating unique and artistic face masks, which also aspire to a protective function. These creatives are allowing adversity to inspire their efforts. One such artist comes to mind because she made a mask for me.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first occurred, I had never worn a face mask in public. I did not even know where to purchase a mask. When I told a friend of mine, Elva Bertram, that I did not have a mask, she graciously offered to have one made and shipped to me.
At Elva’s request, her friend, KATE BECK, a talented textile artist and fashion designer from New Orleans (https://www.katebeckneworleans.com; https://www.alquimiestudio.com), made me a lovely cloth mask. (My favorite color is blue.) Kate sent it to me, and I was delighted to receive it. I am grateful to both Elva and Kate for their thoughtfulness. I have posted a photo of my own Kate Beck mask. You can find her work on Facebook, also, at Kate Beck New Orleans.
I am not surprised that the call for masks worldwide has inspired the artistic imagination. As a former art educator, I know mask-making is an activity that students enjoy in the classroom. It helps them to express themselves in unique ways. It helps them learn art history, too.
Different cultures, down through time, have used masks for religious, ceremonial, and healing purposes. Today our use of masks to ward off illness might easily conjure beliefs shared by shamans of old. Although our modern masks are mainly inspired fashion and lifestyle statements, their spiritual connections run deep.
Inspiration comes when it comes and how it comes. Its origins are mysterious, but it can be triggered. In his REPUBLIC, Plato suggested the idea that necessity is “…the mother of invention.” To my mind, “invention” is just another word for “creativity.”
During the first few months or 2020, masks have become a part of daily life in America, if only temporarily. Approve of them or not, they can be fun and profitable for artists to imagine and create. When worn, they become forms of self-expression.
My thanks to Kate and Elva—
Tina Murray, Ph. D.
Editor and writer