defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and pain without fear. In Old French, equivalent to cuer heart and in Latin cor.
Is courage when we reach into the deepest depths of our heart and soul and feel something so powerful that it enables one to continue on a difficult and often dangerous path, not knowing the outcome?
This is the question I pondered after the opening of Courage Unmasked at the Henlopen Acres campus of the Rehoboth Art League on September 4th. Selected artists have transformed masks used in the treatment of head and neck cancers into powerful and stunning works of art.
As I read the artist’s statement next to each mask, I was transported into not only the pain, but also the uplifting spirit of hope that each mask represents.
Oh, the human spirit does soar!
Lee Wayne Mills, Masquerade, cloche, feathers, felt, carnival mask
I have always worked in a collage/assemblage aesthetic. For the CURB project my two main objectives were “celebration” and “remembrance.” In putting together this piece I have used a feathered cloche worn by my mother during her chemo/radiation therapy. I was reluctant to let it go, but the project demanded it, and I am glad her spirit encouraged me to do so. Dark and elegant, as she was in her youth, Masquerade embraces the night and moves out to experience it – in party mode – in celebration – with the mystery of exploration – and tomorrow’s promise.
Diana Coulton Beebe, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers, paper maché, felted wool, feathers
When I was asked to make a mask for CURB, Emily Dickinson’s poem immediately came to mind: Hope Is the Thing with Feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the word – And never stops at all … And sore must be the storm – That could abash the little Bird – That kept so many warm…. I wanted to give expression to the strength, courage, and suffering of the patient, but I also wanted to create a sense of comfort, warmth, and a mythic aura of dreams at the same time. The feathers would express hope. It was an honor to contribute to this project.
Alexandra Higgins, From the Sea, paper, découpage glue, shells, varnish
When I was working on the radiation mask, I was thinking of a “new beginning” and thinking about a person who would undergo the treatment and wear this mask. The mask, literally as well as figuratively, is a person emerging out of the sea. My idea for Courage Unmasked ties in with my work for the last 20 years – the garden and my “root” series. Both are connected to starting over and optimism about the future.
Constance Costigan, The Presence of the Unseen, newsprint, tissue paper, acrylic medium
When I agreed to do this mask, one of my closest friends had been diagnosed with cancer. She went through all the protocols and is a survivor with a good prognosis. But we didn’t know that in the beginning, and she looked her usual self all through treatment. In her mind and in ours, though, was the thought that this might not be over. Cancer, support, hope, survivor, remission, odds, hospice—the words hover in the mind.
Cancer articles from our paper, covered with tissue overlay, represent these difficult thoughts under the surface. The sprouting, hair-like elements represent the radiating thoughts of fear, hope, and confusion.
Joanne De Fiore, Mindset, parchment paper, ink
Calligraphy has always been an integral part of my life as an artist. I chose parchment paper because of its flexibility, strength, and ability to be reshaped – attributes needed when facing and fighting cancer. Burning the edges of each quote represents the “fire” one has to go through at each stage of the fight. The reclaimed barn siding frame represents old, rigid mindset; the mask, the new emerging one. Cancer must be fought psychologically as well as physically.
Deborah Appleby, Into the Light: Gratitude, Respect, Perseverance, aluminum box, medical tape, paint, electrical lighting, filter paper
I have heard it said that once the “C word” is given a deep blackness takes over. It might be just for a minute, or much longer – a long, dark pit taking hold – but BLACK is the prevailing theme. As one digs oneself out, a step/path/journey begins, and a LIGHT starts to appear – whether that light be the end of treatment, or a peace at the end of life’s path. Those making the journey speak of the change to their inner selves that cancer has given them – one that without gratitude, respect, perseverance, as well as friends and family, they could not have made.
Kathy Korin, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, handmade (wet) wool felt
In 2013, my mother was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer, which had metastasized to her brain. She had never smoked. She showed courage and grace and revealed a beautiful soul as she dealt with what she called being “between a rock and a hard place.” The “roots” below the mask represent her lungs. A red vessel leading to sprouts coming through the top of the mask represent her colorful personality, which could not be dulled by her disease. The new growth and flowers thriving between the rocks are parts of her left with those of us who loved her.
Damon Pla, The Memory of Trees, wood, styrofoam, acrylic paint, found objects
In The Memory of Trees I wanted to exhibit the idea of memory as a tangible object. I find great inspiration and satisfaction in a “heightened” opportunity in which a memory can be created – an “optimal” moment, so-to-speak. A certain kind of glowing light in the afternoon… an open window inviting in the day… or the way a tree sways in the wind before a storm arrives.
As soon as I saw the mask I thought of nothing but white. Stark white with different textures. I welcomed this vision because it was a nice contrast to the work I regularly produce.
This is just a preview of the masks on display in this exhibition. I invite you to be inspired, to take away hope, to take away understanding, and to take away compassion.
In addition to Courage Unmasked in the Corkran and Tubbs Galeries, The American Landscape is in the Homestead and Volunteer Members’ Showcase is in the Ventures Gallery through September 20th.
On September 19th CURB (Courage Unmasked Rehoboth Beach) will present a Gala Art Benefit Auction from 6 – 8 p.m.
For additional information about the auction and to purchase tickets visit: http://beebehce.org/courage-unmasked
posted by Lynne Powell/RAL Marketing Coordinator