20 May 2007

I Love You Equinox

I got nothing on this the first several tries around. I didn't want to go to the obvious place, the place the psychologist in all of us tends to go when someone says the word "mask." And the only other prompts I got were the images of two of my closest friends, who are (it must be said) like night and day.

This is Zanne. This picture, from the Connecticut Renaissance Faire where she is employed summers, doesn't do her justice. Even without her mask, Zanne looks pretty much like that. (although her lips aren't always sparkly and gold.)

And this is fiat. Yes, she prefers it that way. When I met fiat, we were engaged in the arduous task of mask-removal; she's the patient after me at my counselor's office. Our second meeting, we were at a painting class on a Saturday morning. Our third meeting was at my family's Thanksgiving table. Just to give you an idea.

Each of these women uses her mask to free herself. I know, you're thinking, "But I thought she said she was going to spare us the psychobabble." Zanne isn't any different from the sun-character she plays. She just isn't. She's not dark and mysterious, but she knows what very few of us realise: that there is a great and terrible power in being a child of the light. fiat understands and (hopefully) accepts her mixed heritage. She knows she is a mixture of dark and light, and I suspect that's why she made the creation in the photo. I hope she also knows how lovely this can be in a person, and that most of us are, in fact, an amalgam.

When Zanne was in college, I sat for a mask-making experiment in her dining room. Her mom held my hand and sat and babbled cheerfully as only Jean can for the hour or so it took for Zanne to slather my face with Vaseline, insert two short straws up my nose, and wrap my face in several smothering layers of buckram treated with plaster-of-paris. Kind of a cross between a cocoon, a facial, and mummification. I sat still and tried to remain expressionless, dreaming of Nefertiti or Marie Antionette.

The finished cast of my face wasn't the end-product, by any means; Zanne has always been famous for her intricate and many-stepped art projects. I believe the purpose was to have a human-shaped model to do some weird, bird-like wire architecture with--but I don't remember for sure. All I remember is returning downstairs after several hours to find the mold finally dry, and placing it cautiously up against my face.

Have you ever worn a mask that was made from your own face? It's almost frightening, how it envelops you, how each contour settles down over you, until you think, "Hmm, it feels almost like home," but at the same time, a part of you is wondering, but what if it devours me? What if I lose myself and this is all that's left? For this, I wish I had some sage advice to offer. But you'll have to go ask Zanne. She's the only one I've ever met whose inside face perfectly matches her mask.

(Oh. And by now you might be wondering: where's my mask? What's my one true face? Not a chance, my friend.)


Deirdre said...

I've always wanted to try mask-making - it seems a good way to explore from the outside in.

Yummyteece said...

Zanne's picture is breathtaking. But what caught me more, and holds me still in its spell is your statement: there is a great and terrible power in being a child of the light.

So facinating, so true.

This weekend, at the SoCal Renn Faire, I tried on a leather mask. Never before have I had a mask fit me to perfectly. It was a little scary, and I wish I'd had the money to take it home with me.... to try in the quiet solitude of my own space to give myself to it and discover something new.

What a lovely and thought provoking post.