The annual Utah Arts Festival (UAF) mask exhibition, now in its fourth year, opened Friday, Jan. 15, for Gallery Stroll at the UAF Gallery at Artspace, 230 S. 500 West, Salt Lake City. Featuring the work of 29 local artists, the exhibit is not only a display of creative design and artisan skill, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to get a one-of-a-kind mask for UAF’s Masquerade Party scheduled for February 20.
Aimee Dunsmore, UAF’s development director, says the mask show was conceived after partygoers began asking where they could purchase unique masks for the February event. UAF invited local artists to apply for the opportunity and participants include both established and emerging artists. “We’ve found that several of the artists really enjoy participating because they get to work in a different medium than they usually work in,” says Dunsmore. Stephanie Swift, for example, known for her digital artwork of iconic buildings and signs in Salt Lake City, made masks using leather and metal.
In the “unusual materials” category is a mask by John Rees. He uses old records, zip ties, and VHS tape to fashion a mask that looks a bit like Darth Vader. Though it appears uncomfortable, it is lined with soft material to protect the wearer.
Kali Mellus, who usually makes jewelry and belt buckles using metals and resin, created a billy-goat mask using white leather for the face, patent leather for the horns, and yarn fringe all around it. As she delivered it to the gallery, she made an unusual proposition. “I became very attached to this mask and don’t want to part with it,” she explained. “But I’ll rent it for $50 for the Masquerade Party.”
Amanda Carol created two masks using fabric, costume jewelry, bits of glass and other found objects. One, called Jubjub Bird (from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”) even lights up with tiny, battery-powered lights.
Cat Rogers, a spray-paint artist, started with a store-bought mask, removed all the glitter and embellishments, and worked her own intricate spray-paint design on the base.
Some masks are extremely lightweight, such as those made from paper clay, while others, like those carved from wood, might challenge the neck muscles. But aside from those special occasions, like the Masquerade Party, for wearing the masks, they can be hung on the wall or displayed on a pedestal like the sculptural works of art they are.
In addition to masks, the exhibit also includes paintings of masks by Grant Fuhst. Imaginative interpretations of tribal masks, the paintings are colorful and small enough to fit nicely with a mask collection display.
Both the mask exhibit and the Masquerade Party are fund-raisers that enable UAF to produce the annual Utah Arts Festival held at Library Square each June. For the exhibit, artists receive 30 percent from the sale of their masks and the remainder benefits UAF. Prices range from $35 to about $200. Tickets for the masquerade, to be held at Trolley Square’s Falls Event Center on Feb. 20, are $50.
2016 Mask Exhibit, UAF Gallery, Salt Lake City, Jan. 15-Feb. 12 www.uaf.org.
Sue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life.