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Jenny Badger Sultan: Masks

Masks have played an important role in my life. When I was very young, 2 or 3, and we visited friends who had made and displayed many masks in their home, I would scream and scream as I looked at the masks. Finally our friends put them away so I wouldn’t have to see them.

As an adult I was moved to make a mask because of a frightening dream of The Mother who was Trying to Kill me. I used a balloon and papier mache to create this one-eyed bald person from the dream. I had hoped to be able to dialogue with this figure but found the mask to be so disturbing that I didn’t get very far. This started my involvement with making masks. Mad Man was an effort to give form to anger--both as I had encountered it from others and from within myself. Old Weirdo was a super simple mask made on a balloon which took on all kinds of personalities when someone wore it and spoke for it.

Gorilla was made of papier maché over a clay base. It represents my affinity with gorillas, who feel like totem animals to me, as in Two Gorillas in the Field in Box of Dreams. Doll for the Exorcism of Pain used a latex mask made on a plaster cast of my face. It came out very distorted and I decided to sew it onto a doll I had made to help release childhood pain.

After a while I wanted to make masks that were more comfortable to wear. I found out about plaster bandages, which at the time I had to buy from medical supply stores. Many of the masks from here on used a plaster bandage base formed on my face, with additions, either on the face itself or the superstructure, using papier mache. They are very comfortable and I have worn them frequently in Dia de los Muertos processions.

Many of these masks were just experiments, without any deep or symbolic meaning--Red Bird (1985), Dryad, Alien, Solar Disc, andStar. Luminosity uses an idea for creating light using the value scale--an assignment I used to give in my Basic Design classes.

The Mask for the Circulation of the Positive came directly from a dream (Dream of the Negative and Positive Masks). It was formed from canvas on a chickenwire base. I made it and the canvas robe for a ritual celebration that was the culmination of a class called “The Universal Mask” that I taught at U.C. Santa Cruz in 1983.

My most recent mask, Forest Spirit, is a musical one--the hanging bones are from a dead pelican I found at Ocean Beach. I buried it in my backyard until the bugs had cleaned the bones. Being hollow, they make a beautiful sound when they clink together.

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Alien

Circulation of the Positive: robe, front

Circulation of the Positive: mask

Circulation of the Positive: robe, back

Doll for the Exorcism of Pain

Dryad

Gorilla

Luminosity

Forest Spirit

Forest Spirit: detail

Mad Man

Mad Man, Naomi, & The Mother who was Trying to Kill Me

Mexican Skull Mask

The Mother who was Trying to Kill me

Naomi is a Star

Old Weirdo

Persephone in the Underworld

Place of Sprouting Corn: mask

Place of Sprouting Corn: mask

Red Bird

Solar Disk

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