Zati: an Urdu word meaning intrinsic, from the inside out, an inner connection to soul life
Wu: A 5000+ year-old tradition of ancient Chinese women shamans: weavers, mask-makers, dancers, singers and mystics. Several of my masks have been inspired by the Wu.
EarthLoom: a loom of seven parts for personal and community weaving, whose design echoes a pre-historic Siberian symbol of home, and a Japanese temple gate, and is my personal symbol of peace.
On August 13th, 1989 I had a dream in which I walked from this era into a timeless landscape. There I discovered a decorated wagon filled with beautiful handwoven masks. When I inquired of an older woman nearby what they were for and how they were made, she presented me with a spirited handwoven mask and explained to me exactly how it was created. As she carefully handed it to me she said, “This mask will teach you something very important about yourself. When you find out what that is, share it with others.”
When I awoke, I wove my first mask: stunning, extraordinary, beautiful. Nowhere in mask-making history have I been able to find masks woven with this technique. I have since called it Zati, an Urdu word meaning “intrinsic, from an inner place,” because the complete idea and method arrived in a dream, from the inside out.
My fascination with the mask and its construction was only the beginning. In order to understand more of its meaning, I began to research and study mask-making and the place masks have been held in cultures throughout history. Consequently, I wrote a book, “The Art of Weaving a Life” and developed a small lap loom on which to weave the mask. This book and loom have become the basis for the classes I teach to students all over the world. As I use the information to enrich my vision, my students are also enriching and healing their own lives. They now have students, and so the gift in the dream is changing many lives.
To me, the Zati mask is a symbol of identity. Just as it is made out of Earth’s materials, so are we. When placed over the human face, the mask becomes enlivened. Who or what enlivens us? This is the question that emerges when thinking about the masks we all wear. And so we tell our stories, which I call “A Personal Mythology.” Who do we believe we are? This is the metaphysical work that fascinates me. Weaving is the perfect metaphor for life. The vertical threads of the warp, our inner life, and the horizontal threads, our daily actions, woven through our values and beliefs: together, these create the fabric of our lives.
This traveling exhibit of nine masks will display in four galleries and museums in Hancock County.
Gallery 142, J& B Atlantic, Feb-Mar 2016
Riverview Gallery, Ellsworth Library May 2016
Wilson Museum, Castine, June 2016
Reversing Falls Sanctuary Gallery, Brooksville, Aug 2016
At each venue I will give a talk about the mask sculptures and lead a community weaving event.
If you are interested in bringing this exhibition to your exhibit space, use the contact form below or:
Contact the artist: 207-326-9503
Below are the nine masks in the traveling exhibit A Personal Mythology. Click each photo to see details.
This exhibition is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Benefits for the public
In virtual connection through electronic “devices,” we are losing connection with the Earth from which everything in life arises. Community weaving at each venue will help hundreds of visitors understand what weaving is, and the metaphor of the crossing of threads as weaving aspects of ourselves into a personal fabric. For most people, weaving is a new experience, and weaving together appeals to most who try it. I have brought this loom to cancer survivor retreats, women veterans, spiritual retreats, and many schools. Weaving is a unifying of elements; that integration is good for people, helps children in psycho-motor development, and is calming for adults, who often become aware of their stress when it dissolves as they weave. Many will weave on the Earth Looms, and hundreds will see the exhibit itself. I will invite organizations to bring people with developmental disabilities.
Brief sketch of the artist
My mask technique is unique in world mask culture. I have a BA in Education and Art from Goddard College. A Maine Traditional Arts Master, I taught weaving and spinning at Haystack and Kripalu. Exhibitions: Portland Museum of Art, Farnsworth Art Museum, Wenham Art Museum, Wenham, MA. Fibre Biennale Invitational, Chieri, Italy. Permanent collections: Museo di Citta di Chieri, Italy; private collections, including several in a private Rockefeller collection. Mask performances in the US and abroad, including a European dance tour from Sarajevo to Tblisi, Georgia.
Book the exhibition
To discuss booking this exhibition for your venue, please contact the artist through the form below, or call Susan Barrett Merrill at 207-326-9503