Okay, enough misery for a while…I am so tired of moping. So we’re gonna talk about masks.

Does anybody know anything about mask making? I’ve been sort’ve poking at the idea as an outgrowth of these sculptures–not wearable masks, neccessarily–but there’s something so terribly symbolic about a mask, even just as wall art. I’ve seen leather and felt used, (that is, I have seen felt as a mask component, not that I felt used by the existence of leather!) but what I’m mostly reading seems to indicate I’ll need to make up a mould or form of some sort, and never having done, that, I’m still a little leery. (Of course, in the end, I suppose all artists learn new techniques just by buying the crap, locking themselves in the studio, and ruining a lot of raw materials until they figure out if it works for them or not.) Polymer clay, while nifty, just isn’t quite working for what I’m after, and I don’t have the sort of mind that can carve out something gracefully–I’m an additive artist, not subtractive.

As it happens, I collect masks–both in general, and more specifically the Indonesian Barong masks, which are sort’ve nifty, pop-eyed, fanged masks, carved from wood, painted, and gilded. Most of them are probably cheap crap pawned off on tourists, but I still like them, and have five currently on the wall grinning at me as I type, and a few more scattered through the house. There’s this dance associated with them, which, to give the Cliff-notes version–consists of the Barong (a hideous tusked figure, who’s nevertheless a good guy–kinda like a gargoyle) dancing, then being pursued by the Rangda, the “widow-witch” (who looks a lot like the Barong to the naive eye like mine, being fanged and pop-eyed, but has long claws and an extended tongue, and a crown of spikes) The two dance for a while, with the Rangda stalking the Barong, until the other dancers, representing the group’s warriors, charge and attack the Rangda to try to defend the Barong. The Rangda, however, is not without recourse, and magically muddles the minds of the warriors so that they turn their knives on themselves. (Evidentally they really do stab themselves, although I’ve heard it described as the anthropological equivalent of pro-wrestling–it’s not exactly fake, in that it IS painful, and you can get seriously hurt and people do accidentally hurt themselves rather badly from time to time, but it’s rather staged and theatrical and not quite as scary as it looks to the gaping tourists.) The power of the Barong protects the warriors from hurting themselves too badly, and after they have chased the Rangda away, and all the warriors are laying on the ground “dead,” the Barong touches each with his hair, and heals them. (If someone DOES accidentally hurt themselves badly, it’s considered a sign of divine displeasure and is a Bad Thing.)

It’s things like this that make me think that whether or not a religion is “true” in the absolute, proveable sense, is the least important part of the matter. ‘Cos that’s cool, damnit.

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