I worked with the residents at Salem Lutheran Home, an Eden Alternative Care property in Oakland, on a project about identity and community. For the first stage of the project I made mask forms out of clay in conversation with the residents, and then I made plaster molds from those forms. I cast a several of each style of mask.
In the second stage, we did workshops in which residents chose a mask and then used underglaze and transfer decals to illustrate their exterior and interior identities on the mask forms.
In the final creation stage, we had a conversation in which each resident chose some themes that defined their lives: leadership, spirit, family, adventure, etc.
I installed the masks in a tree on the property. All the adventure masks were joined by an adventure ribbon, the spirit by a spirit ribbon, etc. Finally, all the masks were joined by one long ribbon for the community at Salem.
The piece was unveiled at an afternoon community celebration of art and jazz open to both Salem residents and their surrounding community.
The experience was intense and rewarding. As the guide for the project, I became intensely aware of the fragility of our identities and stories. Just like these masks, they have to be held gently; but also just like these masks, they have to risk a little damage in order to be seen in all their glory.
I am very grateful to the Center for Art and Public Life for the Kinetic Grant that funded the project. I also owe endless thanks to Erin Partridge for her expert guidance and support. I could not have done it without her assistance and encouragement. Finally, I cannot send enough thanks to the residents of Salem Lutheran Home who trusted me with their stories and their images. You enriched my life and my work every day we got to work together.