Masks: An Evolving, Artful Perspective

How can masks inspire us?  

Across most cultures, masks depict mystery.  They are a cryptic expression, an artistic intention, glorified for all to see.  Essentially, regardless of their cultural context or purpose, a mask is a means of concealing one’s identity and assuming a different one.

The act of masking ourselves translates fluently into the art of imagination, or of transcendence.  Creating a mask is one way to celebrate the co-creation of life.  Our definition of self, and therefore our outlook, evolves with each new experience.

Just as the mask is born at the hands of its creator, creativity can be developed and nurtured in our lives.  Anything we do to perpetuate the art of imagination helps us embrace and celebrate this evolving creation of self into our lives and the world around us.   Here are a few simple ways to nurture this new perspective in your life!  

Be Brave

"Creating and then wearing a mask allows us to expose parts of ourselves we are not usually willing to embrace in everyday life."  --Nicole Burns, Art Therapist

OK, so we can’t exactly wear a Venetian Mask to the grocery store, or to work—at least not without unintended consequences.  However, we can live expressively through an artistic prop! 

Wear a statement piece, such as a vibrant scarf or an otherwise unique piece of wearable art.  By stretching just beyond your everyday comfort zone, you can embrace something dormant and feel just a little more alive!   


Repurpose the Ordinary

The above mask was made out of plastic bottles.  Part of living a more artful life is seeing the artistic possibilities of everyday objects.  It’s the small bits and pieces of thought and color and that weave into the fabric of an artful existence.  

In order to transcend our ordinary lives into something extraordinary, we must approach it with new eyes.  Only then can we channel our intentions into something more profound.  

Collect Small Moments

As you journey through each day, watch for small findings that give you joy, a living collection of items with which you can design quiet moments of intention. 

Imagine you are decorating a mask with artifacts that represent the past, present, or future YOU.  If you are watching for these small moments throughout your everyday life, you will start to experience things differently—more artfully!


Be Anonymous

Whether it be a walk in the woods or just people-watching at the mall, find time to revel in the freedom of not being known, seen, or accountable to anyone. 

Some of our most creative thoughts or deepest desires can only be accessed under the cloak of anonymity when we don’t have to regard how others feel or consider their needs.   

Fail to Disclose

 "You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it. It's hard to find   that inner creative voice if you're ... not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting."       --American existential  psychologist Rollo May

There is an artistry to not overstating things, to leaving some things to the imagination.  For many artistic people, solitude is essential for letting seeds of thought and intention grow into creative expression.

By resisting the temptation to over-engage, we give our thoughts time to germinate. These conscious retreats can fuel our everyday lives with a richer existence, which is the driving purpose behind living a more artful life!  

Historical Perspective:

  • A brief review of the history of masks reveals that, in Europe alone, they have served as a means of either expressing something unpalatable, or transcending one’s experience to something extraordinary.
  • The Masquerade Ball began as part of Europe’s carnival season in the 14th and 15th centuries
  • Villagers started using them to welcome kings and queens arriving in their city
  • Venetian aristocracy then started using masks for anonymity during carnival celebrations, which consisted of decadence, gluttony and a large amount of lust 
  • In 18th Century England, the “night of sin” was transformed into a pompous fashion frenzy that graced some of the finest ball rooms in the world
  •  In 1771, Sweden’s king Gustav III was assassinated during a masquerade ball when a disgruntled, masked nobleman “do-si-doed” close enough to him on the dance floor to serve the fatal blow. After that, the masquerade ball was associated with an ultimate night of risk, inspiring operas and plays alike