mummer n. 1. A performer in a pantomime.
2. One who goes merrymaking in disguise during festivals.
mummery n. A performance by mummers. (Merriam-Webster)
Over my many years as a professional mask-maker, (Goblin Art, 1999-2015), I often found myself questioning the role and purpose of masks in modern America. When I decided to seek the traditional roots of Mardi Gras and Halloween, I found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with 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, and into my teaching and collaborations with others.
Masks carry an incredibly rich and mythic heritage, so 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 I hope, a greater artistic and cultural value than anything I created before.
Monica Roxburgh Sears