|Mummer's masks from woven cattail leaves,|
inspired by the Straw Boy and Biddy Boy
straw mask traditions of Ireland, and created
by my mask-making students.
Echoes in Time "Mask Night", 2016
During my years as a professional mask-maker, I often found myself questioning the role and purpose of masks in modern America. Deciding to seek the more traditional roots of Mardi Gras and Halloween, I found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole of mystical characters and rich mythic traditions, of guising Mummers and processions of "Wildermen", of Grecian temple rituals, and ancient "bear cult" legends with roots going back to hunter-gatherer Europe.
Through this research came my recognition that modern masks in America (outside of living indigenous mask traditions) have largely lost a connection with nature, or a relationship with the land around them. And along with that recognition came the desire to integrate the context of nature and land into my own work, as well as into my teaching and collaborations with others.
Because masks (and puppets too) carry such an incredibly rich and mythic heritage, I feel that they are a uniquely well suited art form for bridging the past and present. Additionally, when we create or decorate them with the raw materials of the land, they can offer us a powerful way to honor the cycles of nature and celebrate the sacredness of place.
This website documents my process as I transmute twenty years of experience making masks with no real grounding in place or tradition, into something I feel holds a much deeper meaning--and perhaps a much greater value and relevancy to the needs of today--than anything I have created before.
Monica Roxburgh Sears