Northwest Coast Tribal Masks
This paper describes the Sea Bear Transformation Mask, created by Don Svanvik in 2000, and how it reflects Northwest Coast Indian art and culture, specific to the Kwakiutl tribe. A transformation mask is a large mask with hinged shutters that, when open, reveal another mask. Audrey and Alan Bleviss gave this mask to the Montclair Art Museum in 2005. The medium consists of red cedar, cedar bark, copper, pigment, and string. In the Montclair Art Museum, the mask is displayed in its open form.
The inside of the mask shows a man sitting with his legs bent in front of him while his arms are open and stretched to his sides. His facial features consist of sharp cheekbones, a wide triangular nose, a goat-t, a thin mustache, and thick dark eyebrows. The subject's facial hair is made up of black pigment. His eyes are peering up and his thick red lips are in a whistling position with a little tube in its mouth with three strings attached to it- one on both sides and one on the bottom. The strings on his left and right attach from his mouth to his arms. The bottom string attaches to the middle of his legs, just below the knees. It looks as though there is a harness or support cushion of some sort around the figure's neck but this is not clear. Perhaps it functions as a filler so there is not a lot of empty space (www.freespiritgallery.ca).
The subject does not accurately depict the human anatomy. In fact, while studying this figure, one may notice that geometric shapes make up many of the limbs. For example, the artist uses ovals to represent the palm of the hands, the shoulders and the knees. The man's chest is in the form of squares with rounded edges and with perfect little white circles as nipples. This oval-like shape is often called an ovoid. The ovoid that make up the palms, chest, and knees are open allowing the natural color of the red cedar to show through. Much of the inside of the mask is the color of red cedar. The ovals that...
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