The Mask Beneath the Mask

by mitchellgallery

Beadle masks 2

Beneath the mask, there is a human face. It is a face that expresses emotions, communicates speech, and reveals one’s innermost thoughts. For some, the face is the looking glass into the essence of one’s being. For others, it is a blank canvas that one may cover and “mask” as they please.

Martin Beadle writes, “a mask transforms a person’s face, disguises the person’s face to others, and can create a feeling of becoming someone or something else.” As one puts on a mask, one embodies not only the physical features of another but also the inner character of another. Yet in stepping into the character of another, am I in actuality embracing a truer representation of myself? Am I finally wearing my true face?

Beadle’s work, inspired by the West African art he saw while living in Africa, explores the “ties between the animal world and world of people.” He combines gourd fragments, shells, bone, horns, basket mesh, reeds, and feathers to create the human faces. In wearing this mask, one may embrace the strength of an ox, serenity of the Forest Man (2003), or wisdom of an owl.  Yet these are not face that merely express emotion but also memories. Perhaps those bones were from the body of of an ox once living in Africa many years ago, the shells once the dwelling for sea mollusks. Perhaps the basket material once carried a child who is now grown into a man.

The face is of one individual and also of generations of individuals both human and animal. Wearing the face, one may embrace an identity truer to themselves and a character embodying the history of an entire culture.


Holly Huey – St. John’s College student

Photo credit: Martin Beadle, Horned Man, 2007

Quotes from “Masks and Figures: Works by Martin Beadle” Artist’s Statement