Beauty & the Beast

Feb. 5 - Mar. 31, 1998

 This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1998. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.

Dan Guere, Bugle War Mask, Liberia

The theme of Beauty and the Beast can be explored in many ways. In this exhibitiuon the most important is the intention of the maker. Traditional African masks and figures usually represent ancestors or spirits respectfully as beautiful, ordered, naturalistic and good (e.g. the Chokwe mask). Bush spirits, however, as unknown forces to be feared, are often depicted as aggressive, exaggerated composite monsters, ugly and intentionally frightening (e.g. the Guere mask). Examples drawn from many cultures including the Bamana, Dan/Guere, Ejagham, Igbo, Senufo, Songye and others illustrate the varied intentions of their masks and figures. Some pieces speak of the dualities of good/evil, refined/rough, light/dark, female/male, human/god, natural/strange and beauty/beast.

The perception of the viewer can differ from the intention. Masks, seen briefly in motion and understood their context by insiders, will be perceived differently by an outsider, or by a foreigner contemplating it quietly in a book, museum or gallery as a work of art. "Knowing" an object, believing in its power or spirituality, can make one appreciate or fear it more. For us, the fascination or fear of the unfamiliar can create reactions quite contrary to those intended.

The aesthetics of the work are also critical. Was the maker skilled, succeeding in his intentions? A powerful monster can be artistically elegant or grotesque. An ideal maiden mask can be sculpted beautifully or clumsily. A well made piece will somehow cross cultural boundaries and speak to all of us. This exhibit seeks not to provide answers but to provoke questions.

We will be installing on Tues. and Weds., Feb. 3-4; stop by and be the first to see everything. To celebrate the new show and welcome you, we are having an Opening Party Sat. Feb. 7, from 12-4 and a Mid-Show Party Sat. Mar.. 7, also from 12-4. Coming next: "African Costumes", and "Mossi Sculpture".




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