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- wood base, Wyoming;
- painted plaster cast of my face;
- velvet seeds (Mgambo seeds,) Hawaii;
- black river stones, Montana;
- white Pearly Western Mussel shells, Jefferson River, Montana;
- pheasant feathers, Montana
This Mask Artistry piece is ablaze with the Element FIRE and is aptly named “Flame.” Through it, I celebrate the Fire in our hearts that offers us courage and determination. I am writing this backstory just moments after finishing the last touches of decoration. This Mask Artistry piece took several weeks to build, but it wasn't until that last feather was attached that I suddenly realized the name should be “Flame.” That zeal or passion we feel when in the midst of imagination and creativity burns through us, kindling new ideas, igniting and inspiring expression. “Flame” is the portrayal of my honoring that Fiery Spirit.
The wood for the piece is magnificent. The extended limbs on the left side of the face balance the pheasant tail feathers protruding on the right side. All the feathers seem to have that deep rust color of Fire and suggest, to me, the flickering licks of Fire as it burns.
I've also used white Jefferson River Pearly Western Mussel shells I found kayaking. They are behind the eyes and mouth, and hidden around the wood and feathers. An interesting backstory about this endangered mussel: they are disappearing throughout Montana, as the Cutthroat Trout is disappearing. When the mussel needs to reproduce, it sends out a worm-like tongue which attracts the attention of the trout. When the trout nears, thinking it is food, the mussel spits out eggs, which attach to the fish’s “face” and are carried off with it. The eggs do not harm the fish, and eventually drop off in the river and then, hopefully, grow. New populations of this mussel have not been found in the Jefferson River for over twenty years, and the remaining shells I found washed downstream and landed on the shore years after this mussel lived. When alive, they can live up to eighty years. As the trout wanes, so does the mussel. This is a lot of information, but I thought it fascinating enough to include in the backstory of the mask materials.
The placement of the black river stones and the Hawaiian velvet seeds further suggest the upward thrust and parry of flames, reaching out like arms of fire. The velvet seeds are Mgambo seeds, which are found in the bright red flowers of the Mgambo tree in Hawaii.
This is a particularly powerful mask for me, touching oh so many emotional places within me and allowing me to identify and honor the resultant personal responses that flicker out of the flames into my awareness.