So a confession - a few of the dreams/visions in the dreamcatcher are mine and some of them I started working on a while ago. Dream #11 is one of those and there's a bit of a backstory.
So, last spring & summer I was taking African dance classes at Djoniba Dance (AWESOME CLASSES - if you are in NYC go take one). My teacher, Djoniba Mouflet, hosts these African Dance and drumming parties at various clubs on Manhattan about once a month and he invited class participants to attend. After class, several of us, including Djoniba, were hanging out, wiping off the sweat and chatting - as you do - and Djoniba mentioned that he'd like to have masks for these events. So of course I was like "Hey, I make masks." We got to talking and he said if I had time to make one he'd be happy to have one of his dancers wear it and promote it. He suggested taking a look at West African masks but that I should make whatever I felt like. This sounded like fun. Being a mask junkie, I've seen a lot of African masks before but figured some quality time with Google Images would not go amiss. So I went home that night and Googled my way to tons of West African mask images. I loved a lot of the motifs but nothing was jumping into my brain. I decided to let my subconscious work on it for a bit. Nothing was really coming but I wanted to try and make something so, on one of my trips to Virginia I made a mask base out of clay and did a few layers of strip paper mache on top of it. I made the initial clay base at TJ Art Studios in VA. I mention this because it's one of my favorite places to work. If you are an Arlington County resident this place is a great resource - open studios and classes available for ceramics, jewelry, woodworking and traditional photography (with chemicals and enlargers oh my!). Here's a pic of the initial base:
Looks like an alien right? I was totally not feeling it but I took it home to NYC with me and stuck it in my "maybe something will come to me" pile. Of course, between my two jobs and other personal projects it got lost in the shuffle. Until, one day on the subway (where most of my visions drop in) the Ragman came to visit:
Dream #11: I had a vision of an a African style mask called the Ragman. The face was angry and austere with slashed cheeks and oval eyes. Ochre and earth tones mixed with stark red and white. The face is in the middle of a large cross within a 3/4 circle with multi-colored rags hanging from the the free arm of the cross - the section without the circle. He's a rag and bone man. Collecting pieces of the dead before they are dust and ashes. He's the color of their lives as they enter the ground.
Finally! I could see it and it wanted to get made. Little did I know that, with one thing and another, this was going to be about a 5 month process (hey, life happens right?).
So the first thing was that the eyes on my mask base were ALL WRONG! Question was, do I start form scratch or could I make the existing base work? I decided I could make the base work. I cut off the protrudent eye ridges and attached pieces of half-circles of cut-out cardboard. I layered on a bunch of plaster impregnated gauze to attach the eye pieces and fill out the cheeks. This also increased the strength of the piece. I kept attaching a mix of cardboard and gauze to change the shape until it match the vision. I was in a frenzy and did not take pics I'm sorry to say. Wasn't thinking of documenting at the time.
Next up was attaching the cross. I got some long dowels and cut them to size with my trusty Dremel tool. I drilled some holes in the mask and attached the cross one dowel at a time using a mix of hot glue and several additional layers of plaster gauze to hold them securely in place. I spent a lot of time acting as a vise that day. Luckily for me, plaster gauze sets up very quickly.
Next was figuring out how to add the 3/4 circle. I ended up laying the mask on the floor with sheets of scrap foam core underneath and drawing out the arches. I cut the 1/4 circle arches out of the foam core, centered them on the dowels and attached with glue and plaster gauze. Now the foam-core was way too flimsy so I reinforced with a few layers of plaster gauze (see first pic below). Next I decided I wanted to wrap the cross and circle in fabric. This led to a long adventure in ripping up and bleaching an old pair of jeans into usable strips. I won't go into that. Suffice to say I ended up with lots of bleached denim that I soaked in Paverpol (a glue made for creating sculpture with fabric) and wrapped tightly around the cross and circle. It was a very messy job...
It took about two weeks for that to completely dry and off-gas. I was out of town for a bit and when I came back my apartment was stinky! Note to all of you about proper ventilation - make sure you have it!
This post is getting way too long - realizing it's good to space these out - so I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking. Suffice to say over the next few months I attached hanging rags, added a few layers of gesso and lots of layers of paint. Here's some of the progression in pictures:
Dream realized! Adding him to the Dream Gallery.
How would you recycle/re-imagine the Ragman? Is there a story in here somewhere? Another mask? Painting/drawing/character sketch? If the ragman inspires you - send me your vision for him. Each creation is a building block for the next. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks for reading!