In her novel, The Rose Society, Marie Lu observes that, “The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.”
Artist Lee Clarke long has been drawn to the intriguing correlation between masks used for different purposes and that confluence of truths. Clarke explores that interplay in his series, “The Masked Project,” now on display through November 10 at the Kristin Michelle Mason Gallery at Beacon College in Leesburg.
“Ceremony, theatre, stage and the spectacle of sport and warrior culture have a curious connection,” he says. “The power of the mask, the way it conceals and emboldens the wearer at the same time are something I find very intriguing.”
The Canadian artist, who now lives in Winter Park, Fla. and teaches art for the online departments of the Los Angeles Film School and Full Sail, traces the spark for “The Masked Project” to anthropologist Franz Boas’ 1898 essay, “Facial Paintings of the Indians of Northern British Columbia.”
Clarke, whose work resonates with Northwest Coast native art influences, says he “found [Boas’] study interesting, though limited as they existed purely as illustrations and text. I painted several of these images to realize how they would feel as oil paintings and began to see a connection with contemporary imagery I came in contact with, particularly sports images and masks of other cultures.”
Thus, The Masked Project. The series of 14 x 11 inch oil on linen paintings juxtaposes Boas’ illustrations with masks from various other varieties and sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball.
“Each semester we strive to host an exhibition from a regional or national artist,” says Dustin Boise, assistant professor of art at Beacon College, the first higher education institution accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students who learn differently. “The exhibitions serve as a learning experience for students within the studio arts field, who will gain an appreciation for the work that goes into having a solo exhibition of a complete body of work.”
Of the Clarke series, Boise adds, “The Masked Project serves as an aesthetic anthropological syntax used to communicate a metaphorical comparison of the ceremonial, theatrical and spectacle of contemporary sports and distant culture.”
Clarke will be on hand at the closing reception at the Mason Gallery from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. November 10 to discuss his work and inspirations. Admission to the exhibit and the reception are free.
“My goal,” he says, “is to create a visual bridge that generates a dialogue of questions about the meaning of masks: the nature of sport, spectacle and theater, and to show the influence that art and artists from the Pacific Northwest have on culture around the world.”