About the Artists in the Mythic Masks Exhibition
The art featured in Mythic Masks comes from contemporary artists and performers in several fields, inspired by the function, form, and history of masks in a variety of ways. Please visit their web sites to learn more about them and to view a wider range of their work.
Vinilla Burnham is an English artist and designer who was “born in a trunk” to actor parents. Her great-grandfather was a Punch and Judy man and her grandfather was an opera singer. Her father, a gold medallist at RADA, trod the boards in many a Shakespearian play; he also directed, and acted in film and television. Her mother, in addition to being an actress, wrote children’s books and poetry. Vin began her career in the prop department of the Royal Opera House and the wardrobe department the Nottingham Playhouse before going freelance as a costume designer alongside her sister, Lal D’Abo. Vin has worked on many films, including Time Bandits, The Meaning of Life, Brazil, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, Never Ending Story III, Lost in Space, The Fifth Element, Dead Fish (forthcoming), and numerous others. When she was commissioned by the BBC to design the character Aslan the Lion for their televised production of C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the character proved so hugely popular that children all over the country wrote fan letters to him. Vin made the Batsuit for Michael Keaton in Batman, and led the team that produced the Batsuit, Penguin, and Catwoman costumes for Batman Returns. She also designed costumes for the Boohbah television series (created by the producers of Teletubbies), and she is the costume designer for both the live action and CGI of the new Fungus the Bogeyman telvision series (based on a story by Raymond Briggs). Between films and series, Vin designs costumes and characters for television commercials worldwide. She has also worked for many years with artist Gerald Scarfe on his exhibitions, operas, and ballets (including his 2002 production of The Nutcracker for the English National Ballet), and she designed the costumes for plays by Ionesco and Calderon de la Barca at the National Theatre of Portugal. In addition to her ongoing costume design work, Vin is currently writing her own stories, and designing characters for children’s media, books, and toys. She lives in London. The masks and costumes featured in this exhibition were made for Airwick (Cat), Mars Celebration (Mice), and Watershares (Frog). For more information, and to see more of her magical designs, please visit her web site.
Phil Clark hails from Devon, England, where he has been making and working with masks for 15 years. He has studied with maskmakers and performers in the United States, Italy, Germany, Bali, and China; he has led a large number of workshops and residencies in Britain and Germany; and his masks have been used in performances throughout the United Kingdom, Eire, Norway, the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, and Israel. "I had the opportunity to spend some time in China looking at mask-use in festivals, and a New Year celebration I witnessed there was particularly poignant. It went on for days, and I was fascinated by the way masks were used for humour and sacredness. I then went to Bali to learn how to carve masks, and also saw many more performances. When I came back home, I set out to make a living as a mask-maker solely, doing lots of workshops at schools and making pieces for theatre companies. As a result of this I started to develop my own personal work, and this led me towards creating the Dartmoor spirit masks. I was born in Devon and knew the moor very well, having walked it many times. I remember finding a piece of wood that resembled a face and that set my imagination on fire. I started to use natural materials to make masks, and this linked up with my knowledge of the masks of Native American Indians and how they are used to represent nature spirits. So I started playing with the idea of what the ancient peoples of Dartmoor might have done, what masks they might have made." The two masks featured on these pages were created specifically for a an outdoor dance performance choreographed by Louise Money. "Louise loves performing outside," Phil explains, "and my masks are created from the Dartmoor landscape, so this combination worked brilliantly. We also had some fabulous costumes made, which were dyed using natural dyes from the moor. And then to see the masks with their costumes and the dancers moving to the music brought everything to life in the most incredible way." The photographs of Phil’s masks are by Guy Cracknell, and appeared in Devon Today magazine.
Wendy and Brian Froud also live near Dartmoor in southwest England — a deeply mythic landscape that provides the inspiration for their work. Wendy is a sculptor and doll-maker whose art has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. Born and raised in Detroit, she studied art and music, then became a puppet-maker and sculptor for the Jim Henson studios in London and New York. She created such beloved film characters as Yoda for the Star Wars movies, and the Gelflings for Dark Crystal, as well as puppets for the Muppets television program and various creatures for the film Labyrinth. Her art is featured in three children’s books co-created with Terri Windling: A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale, The Winter Child, and The Faeries of Spring Cottage. She is also a writer. Her poetry has been published in Sirens (an anthology of mytho-erotic fantasy) and The Journal of Mythic Arts; and she’s at work on other projects. Brian is an English painter who has spent his life exploring the myths, folk tales, and faery lore of his native land, including images of metamorphosis between human, animal, bird, and vegetative shapes. His internationally best-selling books include Faeries (with Alan Lee), Good Faeries/Bad Faeries, Lady Cottington’s Fairy Album, The Runes of Elfland and Goblins!. He also designed two feature films for director Jim Henson: The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. His paintings are exhibited and collected internationally, and both Brian and Wendy are members of the Southwest Academy of Artists. More information about their work can be found on the World of Froud web site.
The Horse + Bamboo Theatre is a unique performance troupe based in Lancashire, England. Founded by Bob Frith in 1978, Horse + Bamboo has its roots in the ancient folk theatre of masks and puppetry, but also uses video and digital images in the service of stories of transformation. Bob studied art in Manchester and London, and lectured at the Manchester School of Art before forming Horse + Bamboo with students from Manchester and members of Matrogoth Theatre from Leiden, Holland. Between 1979 – 2000, the troupe travelled by horse and cart to rural areas across England, as well as Andalucia, Spain, and they were the subject of a BBC documentary, The Amazing Journey of Horse + Bamboo, in 1986. The company is now based at the Horse + Bamboo Centre in Rossendale, Lancashire, where they continue to create multi-media performances pieces making innovative use of masks, puppets, and playful objects. "The Girl Who Cut Flowers" was one of those productions — a deceptively simple piece utilizing the language and dream-like logic of a Nursery Rhyme to tell the story of a young girl growing up, with masks and costumes inspired by the art of the Portuguese painter Paula Rego. To learn more about Horse + Bamboo and their upcoming productions, please visit their web site
Beckie Kravetz is a mask-maker, a sculptor, and a wig and make-up artist for opera and theatrical productions. Raised in New York City and Phoenix, Arizona, Beckie received a degree in Theater Arts from the prestigious Yale University School of Drama. She went on to study mask-making at Centro Maschere Strutture Gestuali in Italy and Taller de Madera in Guatemala; she also apprenticed with renown mask-maker Ralph Lee at St. John the Divine in New York City. More recently, she traveled to Spain on a Fulbright Scholarship to study wood carving techniques with a traditional puppet theatre in Cadiz. A job making masks for the Santa Fe Opera led to her interest in wig-making and make-up arts. She toured with the Western Opera, then became a resident artist at the Los Angeles Opera for many years. Today, Beckie works part-time for the Los Angeles Opera but is now based in southern Arizona, where she creates sculptures for exhibition and for installation in public spaces. She also creates masks for stage productions in Los Angeles and other cities – particularly for the myth-inspired shows of the Ziggurat Theatre Enseumble — and she teaches mask-making workshops for children and adults. Her work has been exhibited at the L.A. Opera, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and in galleries around the country. Further information on Beckie’s work can be found on her two Web sites: TheMaskStudio.com features her theatrical masks. OpenArt.com features a range of her sculptural work, including bronzes inspired by opera characters that make innovative use of the mask form. This work is also featured in Sculpted Arias in the Endicott Gallery. Beckie lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, writer Alan Weisman, and shares a studio in the Tooleshed Studios building with painter Terri Windling. You can view Beckie’s masks in a little film of the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble here.
Katy Marchant is an English artist, musician, and the director of the medieval music and dance ensemble Daughters of Elvin. She studied at Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall, but discovered that medieval music was her calling — inspired by such performers as the Dufay Collective, Sinfonye, and Vivian Ellis. Katy formed the Daughters of Elvin in the mid-1990s, mixing traditional medieval tunes with firey percussion. "For us," she says, "it’s the percussion that helps bring the music alive. There is a distinctive Middle-Eastern influence largely due to the Crusades. People returning to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa brought back an array of percussion instruments, and were very inspired by Arabic music." The next step was to bring dancers into the mix, working with masks and costumes of Katy’s devising, inspired by the creatures in medieval tapestries, manuscripts, and architectural decorations. By 1999, the group had grown to ten musicians, singers, dancers, stilt-walkers and arialists — including Katy on bagpipes, recorder, and pipe & tabor, Steve Tyler on hurdy gurdy, and Dhevdhas Nair on drums. Daughters of Elvin has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Eden Project, and in numerous other concert venues and festivals across England and Ireland. In 2002, they were commissioned by the prestigious National Trust to create a series of shows ("The Garden of Earthly Delights") performed at Castle Drogo, a Trust property in Devon. In 2003, Katy received an arts grant to travel to Arizona to work with mask-maker Beckie Kravetz. More information about Katy’s masks and music can be found on the Daughters of Elvin web site. The photographs of the Devil and Woodwoze masks are by Guy Cracknell, and appeared in Devon Today magazine.
Nancy Warren is an American artist who works with themes of myth and transformation, particularly those inspired by Greek mythology. Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Nancy’s imagination was awaked through her mother’s interest in fairy tales and her grandfather’s attachment to stories of American Indians and history. To this day images of the large, plaster busts of Queen Nefertiti and a head-dressed Indian Chief adorning her grandfather’s bookcases remain impressed upon her mind. Nancy studied art and oil painting in her youth, but painting was put on hold as she entered personal years of transformation. During this period she married, delved into Greek mythology and astrology, raised four children, became an internationally trained gourmet cooking instructor, actively competed in single-handed sailing races and served on planning committees of various charity groups. Coinciding with a move to Northern California in the 1980’s and a childless home, she returned to college to study literature, eventually settling back into painting, later earning a BFA from The San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from Johnson State College, Vermont. She has exhibited her work on the East and West Coasts and recently opened a small gallery "Nancy Warren / Studio Art" in the town of Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California. Her work may be seen on weekends when the shop is open and by appointment. To see more of her work online, visit her web site and Greek Myth Today in the Endicott Gallery. Nancy’s contribution to this exhibition, "My Little Medusa Mask," is a 25" x 26" papier-mâché mask she created for an artists’ Halloween party in Vermont. About her work, she says, "Each of my paintings begins with a veiled, amorphous concept, often about a personal relationship with nature or a question about a mythic event or mythological character, Medusa being one of my favorites."
Charles Vess is an internationally acclaimed painter, book illustrator, and comic book artist. His illustrated books include A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, A Circle of Cats by Charles de Lint, Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie, The Green Man and The Faery Reel edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, and, most recently, The Book of Ballads. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, Charles received a degree in Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University, then lived in New York City for many years, where he worked as an illustrator for National Lampoon, Heavy Metal, Readers Digest, and other magazines, as well as producing hundreds of pages of comic book art for both Marvel and DC comics. One of the most respected artists in the comic book field today, Charles has been honored with two Eisner Comic Industry Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. In 1995 Charles co-curated the DreamWeavers exhibition of magical art that traveled to museums across the U.S.; in 2004 he and his wife, Karen Shaffer, curated Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice, an international exhibition of mythic art at the DeFoor Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. Charles and Karen now live among the rolling hills and mountains of southwestern Virginia, where they are the publishers of Green Man Press. To see more of Charles’s art, visit the Green Man Press web site, and A Dream of Apples in the Endicott Gallery.