Sunday, April 21, 2013

New life. New York. Old masks. Old blog.


I've been out of school for almost a year now, and the necessity for an active online presence has become...significantly more important.

Anyways! Here's a couple in-progress shots for the masks I made last year for my thesis-project "Into the West." The play was an hour-long solo show, in which I functioned as a playwright, actor, and designer; each role presented new and unique challenges.

I knew from the beginning of my proposal that I wanted to use masks, and as I've come to learn- there are more than enough ways to do this. I had the opportunity the year before to visit the studio of my professor Tony Janello. His unique and highly refined process of additive sculpting was a revelation to me. Starting the sculpture with a cardboard/sonotube base, layering with paper-towel-mache, and finishing with Paperclay created the ultimate light-weight, strong, and highly detailed form that I translated here for the mask on the left (Friar Sand). The mask on the right (Monkey King 2.0) was mostly Paperclay (a light, air-dry clay. carvable, sandable, AND re-wettable), and while I love the material, it is highly brittle without a strong foundation (wire mesh for this one). I plan on using Tony's technique for all manner of puppets and masks- when he first showed me his process, my mind went instantly to practical and theatrical applications.

While working on these masks, I most certainly entered into "flow state," which does not happen with me as often as I like, and is a sure sign that I should revisit this work. "Flow" is an incredibly powerful idea for *everyone*, but especially anyone in the creative arts.

The mask designs were based on the Chinese opera face-paint designs from which the characters originate.



"Into the West" was a semi-autobiographical story framed around the classic Chinese folk-tale "Journey to the West." It premiered in May 2012 as part of the Brown University SoloFest. Gallery coming soon!


My time in New York has been flying by, and I'm closing in on the anniversary of my graduation from RISD. I can look back at a handful of accomplishments in this turbulent period of my life, but I'm looking forward to so much more. I think it's been almost two years since I posted here, I now have an intimidating backlog of work to upload, and my life has changed in more ways than I have patience to write about in one post. I've done some designing, some acting (and auditioning to more success than I could have ever expected!), and some illustrating. But no masks, and certainly no oil paintings. I mean to rectify this. I've recently reconfigured the furniture in my apartment, in hopes to cram a studio space in my bedroom. The sooner it's ready, the sooner I can get started on my next mask project - Jungian archetype masks!

I have, however, had the opportunity to learn more mask performance (since Bali in 2011) with the venerable Per Brahe. I came across him years ago while reading an acting textbook's article on Michael Chekhov technique (which offers an utterly MIND-BLOWING synthesis between acting and visual art), and somehow, by the alignment of the planets I was fortunate enough to meet him and take two of his classes this year. I am as humbled as I am grateful to have met him, and I eagerly anticipate the next chance I have to learn from him.

I'll end this post with a note on New York- it's tough, it's fast, and it's most certainly stressful. But if you put yourself out there as openly and honestly as you can, it pays off. The people you know, and the people you meet will resurface in your life in more ways than you can imagine, especially considering how dense the population is here. And I've only lived here for ten months! The sheer amount of serendipity I've experienced in this city is almost incomprehensible.

Waiting is hard, and finding ways to pay rent can be even harder, but believing in the possibility for the life you want to live is the first and most important step in making it happen. I wavered in this belief when I first got here, but I see some very promising things on the horizon.

-Sean

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