I have always been interested in other lands and cultures, especially primitive ones. There is simplicity and integrity which is in sharp contrast to our own. For several years, I made ritual fiber sculptures–organic forms, which were made of natural materials (handspun wool, bones, metal, etc.) which were designed to be used in imaginary dances and celebrations --things to be danced around, held in the hand or worn on the head.
Very soon after I started weaving, I can remember thinking that I would like to do some art work which was people-oriented, but it was not until 10 years later that I created my first “portrait.” While teaching a tapestry class, I decided to make a self-portrait in the form of a stuffed cube. Each side had a different feature–a mouth with tongue, an eye, a long-flowing hair-do, a breast with bra and tassel, a neck with necklace and a belly button with a jewel. My self-portrait had turned into a belly dancer! I thought it was funny, but the form did not seem particularly appropriate for further work.
Early in l984, I thought of the brown bag masks we have all made at Halloween. Almost every culture has had masks of some sort. When masks were worn in celebrations and rituals, the dancers wearing them actually became one (or attempted to) with the spirit they represented. This idea suggested to me the possibility of transforming people. What would happen if we put on a mask which represented a person of another race, religion or sex? Masks take away our inhibitions; maybe they would also take away our defense mechanisms which prevent us from getting to know people and therefore, prevent us from understanding them.
Each mask individually makes a statement, often humorous, about a specific concept. I do not draw. After sketching the rectangular shape on paper, I start writing words and phrases that come to mind about the person or idea I have in mind. Then I translate those into symbols. It is a word-association game. At this point, I am using all of my knowledge and skills to create art which shows not so much our cultural differences, but our points of commonality.