Hiding behind a mask. It feels acutely relevant to me right now…
Perhaps that’s why the art of Judith Henry grabbed onto me as it did. I found her the other day (via my 1stdibs.com newsletter, of all earthly places) and instantly got a warm feeling from her work. Mostly from her, but also from her artistic expression through these masks. And looking at her creations made me feel this thing that’s been hiding beneath…
I’m struggling with something. Wrestling with this intangible concept of what it means to share oneself. To reveal, strip nude, expose thyself. How to find the balance between creative exposure and outright over-sharing. But I’m not even there yet.. I’m stuck, penned in by the gate of Privacy and Self-defence, holding tight to my deeply-rooted trait of “keeping to myself”. What am I doing. I think it’s time to break down some walls. Many years ago, when I was in my early 20’s and figuring myself out, my dad said something to me that was heavy, profound:
“People are like film; you must expose yourself if you want to develop.”
I’m only just now coming back around to it and understanding it in a new way. Throughout my 20’s I exposed myself to travels and adventures, new faces and unknown experiences, alternate beliefs and ground-shaking philosophies. Those things were tremendous in helping me to develop into the person I am now. Yet, there is another type of exposure that I have only dipped my toes into because I’ve always feared it. The exposure of oneself. Opening up your thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and questions–through art, through writing, through any and all means– to others, allowing yourself to be judge, criticized, taken apart, and analyzed, or even worse, wholly dismissed. It is a stone wall of Fear, built high and wide.
But on the other side of that wall is a bulldozer named Creativity, driven by Desire, ready to knock that wall flat down. Creative Expression — It is a powerful want that must be fulfilled, cannot be ignored, shall not be silenced. And it will always win the war against Fear. It must. So I write. This is the first time that I am sharing a little piece of my inner self. But it’s worth noting that I didn’t do this alone.. I’ve had this video performance piece playing in the background while I was writing this. The piece is called “To You“, and it’s performed by Nastja Sade Ronkko. It’s one of those strange performance pieces where nothing at all happens. I think that’s why it’s so very comforting. The sound of an empty room lulling me into a cozy place where I can just write, freely, knowing that this young woman was brave enough to sit on a bench staring at a painting for a whole hour and release that as her artistic expression to the public. Yes, I can’t tell you how comforting that is. Let’s let “art” be, expose ourselves for the sake of it, and take, with open arms, whatever comes from that experience of the laying bare of our delicate selves. I think we may find out that our minds are far more beautiful and full of wonder than we had ever imagined, and that removing the mask, and breaking down the wall of fear, will be a liberation of our soul.
All mask images via the website of Judith Henry (check out her “me as her” series) This is the article from 1st Dibs.com about Judith Henry. Still image of Nastja Sade Ronkko from her “To You” performance video via her website