In my last post, I wrote about Diana, Princess of Wales, and the exhibit of her gowns and mementos.
Through much of her royal career, Diana wore a mask -- the mask of happiness when she was profoundly sad; the mask of confidence when her world was shaken. Behind that beautiful face and seemingly self-assured presence was a young woman whose world was falling apart. But her mask was simply lovely.
I went to the most wonderful exhibit at the MSU Museum recently -- and I know I'll go back many times more to take in more detail. (It continues for the next year.)
The exhibit is of masks. They represent a number of cultures -- from pop culture...
... to ancient tribal masks from Africa and other countries.
They are monochromatic or colorful ...
... smooth and textured...
...frightening and whimsical.
Masks are used to conceal, to hide; to play with or protect.
The gas mask, for example, has been a staple of war for more than a century.
And really, don't we all wear masks now and then?
Good morning," we say when it's anything but, and we really don't care if the one to whom we say it has a good morning or not. (Perhaps the snipe in us hopes it isn't so good, in all truth.)
You've seen masks -- if you're a parent of a hockey or football player, you're darned glad these are protecting your athletes.
A friend and I were talking recently about the American funeral -- perhaps it is our best coping mechanism when deep in grief that we can smile at someone as graciously as welcoming them at a cocktail party and say, "It's so nice to see you; thank you for coming."
The tears will fall an hour or two later. It is the mask we show.
Whether one looks at masks as being works of art (they are), sociological tools for coping and hiding (they are) or anthropological pieces that help explain a culture (they are that, too), the fact is, we may all be more familiar with masks than we think.
They can transport us to evocative new worlds...
...or shelter us, emotionally, hiding disfigurement, whether physical or emotional.
Do you know what is behind the mask of those closest to you? Are they happy or sad? Really?
What mask are you wearing today?
(The comedy and tragedy masks above fit in nicely with the newest entry at Chopsticks and String -- a wonderful murder mystery by Nicola Upson, in which one of the lead characters is a fictionalized version of mystery writer Josephine Tey!)
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