Masks have become ubiquitous in the last 18 months. In a pinch, they can be constructed out of inexpensive, repurposed materials, while their use (or lack thereof) can provide commentary on how the wearer feels about politics, responsibility, and design––a lot like art. Host Charlotte Jusinski introduces listeners to #mask: Creative Responses to the Global Pandemic at the Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA). She’s joined by this episode’s co-host Felicia Katz-Harris, senior curator at MOIFA, and Santa Fe native Santero artist Arthur López, whose works were the inspiration for this exhibition.
Although masks take center stage in the exhibition’s title, Arthur’s beautifully carved La Sagrada Papel prompted the MOIFA to explore ideas around personal safety during the pandemic. The wooden sculpture features a roll of toilet paper surrounded by golden rays akin to religious works depicting the saints.
It’s fitting as Arthur describes himself as a contemporary Santero artist, a modern-day saint maker who honors traditional methods of carving and coloring his retablos (two-dimensional panels) and bultos (three-dimensional works). La Sagrada lends a humorous touch to an object that obtained almost sacred status during the lockdown of March 2020.
Arthur’s tongue-in-cheek approach extends to 2020 Altar Vision, his second piece for #mask. In it, a kitchen sink is transformed into an au courant altar, complete with hand sanitizer, soap, and a bottle of Corona––offerings to the patron saints of healthcare and wine. “A lot of people that are doing what are called traditional art, I look at as textbook, and I’ve never wanted to be a textbook artist,” he says. No worries there. Additional visual details in 2020 Altar Vision perfectly capture the danger still lurking outside our kitchen windows while speaking to the solace many of us have found in “FaithTime,” the artist’s nod to connecting via FaceTime.
Like Arthur, the other artists featured in #mask draw on their traditions and cultural heritage for inspiration, creating works that address protection in the time of COVID-19. They question the social implications of a crisis that has disproportionately affected marginalized communities around the globe and celebrate what it means to care for each other.
#mask: Creative Responses to the Global Pandemic is on view at the Museum of International Folk Art through January 15, 2023. Plan your visit at internationalfolkart.org. To learn more about Arthur López and his work, visit artlopezart.com.
Encounter Culture, a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.
Hosted by Charlotte Jusinski
Technical Director: Edwin R. Ruiz at Mondo Machine
Recording Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe
Executive Producer: Daniel Zillmann
Theme Music: D’Santi Nava