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  "Under the Masque" 2003 gelatin silver print
© H. M. Christopherson - Minneapolis, Minnesota

SKIN 2003 part 2 index


Many times I create artwork first and discover layers of complexity after the work has been completed. This image helped me make some discoveries. At first I introduced the white mask to a figure shoot in progress, like I do with other props. It wasn’t until I began to prepare this caption that I realized all the wonderful details and important meanings of the mask.
The mask is not only useful to humans. Almost all mammals, birds, and insects have evolved camouflage abilities that mask, disguise, alter, or change their appearance. Even the venus fly trap shows that plants get into the act. My point is that masks are not only human design, but an all-important component of nature.
For humans, the masque has been explored in worldwide cultures since the beginning of time. Today, with modern technology, we create synthetic plastic masks for events like Halloween or Mardi Gras. In addition, technology has led to many forms of cosmetic surgery that can be considered a type of mask. Military applications of camouflage use stealth technology for the same reasons as animals. Subsequently, a broad interpretation of the mask is so connected to our identity that it permeates almost every aspect of our lives. The mask is the ultimate "skin" because it can be chosen, altered, and changed at will. I realize that we all wear a mask all the time. Every time we are type-casted, described by someone, generalized, categorized, dressed up in makeup or clothing, reality is reduced to one or more levels of our mask; our ability to alter identity.