Drawing Masks as Analogies for Self

"Sketch of Sulka Mask, Melanesia, 1900-1910" Fiber structure covered with pith, feathers and pieces of wood Drawn at the Field Museum, Chicago Pencil on paper 7" x 5" © 1991 Marilyn Fenn

“Sketch of Sulka Mask, Melanesia, 1900-1910”
Fiber structure covered with pith, feathers and pieces of wood
Drawn at the Field Museum, Chicago
Pencil on paper
7″ x 5″
© 1991 Marilyn Fenn

Class notes, from Advanced Drawing Studio with Barbara Rossi, SAIC, 1991

Basil, switzerland – Folk Museum – tradition of Carnival prior to Lent; also South Am., Mexico, New Orleans.

  • Plant form growing out of nose
  • Animal head-masks
  • Pig-tail nose
  • Skull-mask – design fashion

Masks of Mexico

1. collection of Donald Cordry shown at Smithsonian.
2. Mexican masks in Chicago Collections at SAIC (6-7 yrs. ago)

Types of masks:

  • Heads w. spikes/thorns/claws/teeth: all in one form.
  • Bird as nose, under eyes. Airplane as nose?
  • Masks w/horns, then horns as abacus beads.
  • Eyes as eyebrows. Post and lintel for eyebrow.
  • Devil masks.
  • Snake curled as nose or trunk or anteaters tongue or those things that you blow.
  • Skeleton as eyebrows, nose, nostrils, mouth opening.
  • Over bull-like face.
  • Hair for tongue, cork for nose, antlers for ears (sense of arms).
  • Pelvic bones of animal as face.
  • Also looks like gas mask.
  • Polished wood looks like plastic, like Darth Vader.
  • Lizards as eyebrows.
  • Crucified Christ as eyebrows, nose and mouth.
  • Turtle back mask. Painted red face with real hair – second mask to snake nose area.
  • Elephant suggested in huge bead form from Africa.

Prepare to do self-portrait substituting one or more features for an analagous form – develop 20-40 ideas, several visualizations for 1-2 final drawings.

Go to Field Museum to look at masks. Draw for analogies & what you respond to.

Portraits of Chicago artists at State of Illinois Center (43 portraits). Patty Carroll.


Self as house? Bugs, beetles as eyes?

Retablos – devotional pictures painted on tin. For people who have experienced a miracle cure – how they got healed (in churches after person has gotten healed – story of the cure). In show from Mexico – Fine Arts Center Museum catalog.

Early Ren. narratives.


Read this whole series of class notes:

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In the process of making a painting in an abstract way, the painter is in search of a reality. Not one of realistic objects, but of the complete end result. The painting is experienced as a whole, and must evoke in the painter the absolute conviction that this is how it should be and no other way.

— Paul Burlin
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  • The giddy array of fabrics and special sacred objects, your own hand-made pottery, crystal perfume jars, little paint and perhaps cloisonne-encrusted boxes, the colours and patterns, flung in a disordered order is wonderful, but I am getting positively high on the reflections. Too much! A beautiful painting, and yes, you have definitely shown your credentials.
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