Pandemic Pan

It had been a while since I had made a mask so I was eager to get back at it and reinvigorate my abilities & process. The local Arts Council on Mayne Island had proposed having an online exhibit during the Pandemic to avoid crowds mingling in confined spaces and – as it turned out – their theme for the show was “About Face – An exploration of masks and portraiture”…all things pertaining to the face from 3-dimensional masks to paintings, drawings & other mixed media…so, as a guy who makes masks, the call to create within my area of interest was enough incentive to participate – here’s the show (a lot of great work in there, have a look): https://www.artsontheislands.org/about-face.html

So I made the journey from my home in Kitsilano to my Studio on Mayne to dust off my mask-making abilities and put something together. Of course, at this time, we are all painfully aware of the ongoing pandemic and this made me think of the Greek root words of Pandemic – which are Pan (meaning all) and Demos (meaning people)…and so, as minds do (mine at least) I thought of making a depiction of Pan, “god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds, rustic music and impromptus, and companion of the nymphs.” (from Wikipedia)…perhaps if we paid more respect to Pan (nature) we’d have fewer Pandemics.

After 10 days of curing my mask (basically letting it air-dry) I brought it back to Vancouver where I have access to a kiln at a friendly little neighbourhood business that I’ve been going to for years called “U Paint I Fire” run by an amiable fellow named John.

John – Proprietor of the Kitsilano-based ceramic shop,
“U Paint I Fire”

There’s always a worry that a hand-built clay mask – or any object for that matter – may explode in the kiln, due to inadequate drying, or air pockets that have been trapped in the clay due to inadequate clay preparation (throwing/kneading/rolling)…so, I always have some trepidation as I hand my mask off to the kiln-master as there can be accidents: https://clayandbone.com/2017/04/30/mask-making-abraham-maslows-exploding-head/

So I am always releived when John pulls my mask out of the kiln and I can hold the finished (almost) fired piece.

Currently Pandemic Pan is residing on the wall of Shavasana Gallery & Café on Mayne – antlers attached, hanging wire in place – just waiting to be painted. Unfortunately, due to current Second Wave Pandemic restrictions it’s a little harder for me to get to Mayne Island so this next stage will have to wait.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

When I first saw his face my immediate thought was – I must tackle this as a mask project. Look at that moustache, those steely dispassionate eyes and puffy dissolute face. For me there was something compelling about his face and I felt a need to try and recreate that in clay. Certain aspects of  “The Archdukes” lifestyle though, provided an ironic justification for wanting to see his head mounted on my wall sporting a set of Fallow Deer antlers…

If not for the widely-accepted thought that his very public assassination by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip precipitated the start of World War 1, he may have remained a more obscure footnote in history – carrying on with the self-indulgent life of a member of the Austro-Hungarian royal family. That all changed on June 28, 1914 when he was assassinated, with his wife Sophie by his side, as they drove through the streets of Sarajevo in an open and unprotected sedan.

But it wasn’t this pivotal historical event that compelled me to proceed with my mask project. While doing a little research into other aspects of his life I came across this tidbit in Wikipedia:

“Franz Ferdinand had a fondness for trophy hunting that was excessive even by the standards of European nobility of this time.[11] In his diaries he kept track of an estimated 300,000 game kills, 5,000 of which were deer. About 100,000 trophies were on exhibit at his Bohemian castle at Konopištē…”

How is it even humanly possible to kill 300,000 animals in one lifetime? Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria was evidently a pathological one-man extinction event and he deserved to be mounted on a wall with  sporting a beautiful pair of antlers in honour of the unlucky 5,000 deer that fell prey to his insatiable murderous hobby. I began to draw, prepare the clay and commence adding facial details:

 

Once the facial details bore an acceptable likeness to my subject I allowed the clay to cure for a week or so

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Following successful firing in the kiln (always a bit nerve wracking before it comes out in one piece) I began the process of painting The Archduke – layering shade and shadow:

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Until I felt pleased with the final outcome.

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Personally, I think that this may be my best creation to date. There is a definite evolution in my skill level and attention to detail. Not that detail and lifelike realism need to denote higher quality in a piece of art. Creativity and expression can take us down many roads, but I am pleased with this effort as it does reflect – quite closely – what I was setting out to achieve. 🙂

If you are interested in purchasing “The Archduke” it can be yours for $685.00, by ordering online through the Mask Gallery (on this website) or by visiting my studio at: www.shavasana.ca