The Mask Museum

29 Mar

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Masks fascinate me. As a child I made them and wore them to the dinner table. The rest of the family found it strange and a little scary.

Masks are a primal expression as old as humanity…a disguise, a protection, a pretense, an entertainment. Used in rituals and made of easily destructible natural materials, masks survive from 9000 BC.

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Bill LeVasseur, an ethnographer living in San Miguel de Allende, collects masks used in remote villages all over Mexico. Amiably discoursing with visitors to his Mask Museum, Bill said he only collects masks that have been used in a dance or ritual giving life to what would otherwise be a static piece of art.

By collecting the little recognized art form, Bill preserves Mexican masks that might otherwise have been lost or destroyed. Hundreds of masks hang on the walls of Bill and his wife Heidi’s museum in their B&B, Casa de la Cuesta, in San Miguel. Anyone can visit and learn about this ancient art form.

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Masks are still made and used in villages throughout Mexico. They celebrate feast days, patron saints and ceremonial dances telling a combination of Pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic stories.

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New masks are still being created by native artists from children to the oldest members of the village. It is amazing to learn that mask carvers from one Mexican village know little about the masks made in other villages.

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About 1/1oth of Mexico’s population self-identifies as indigenous. There are 62 official indigenous languages spoken. Mexican culture is preserved through these languages, feasts, dances and celebrations unique to each community.

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The origin of the word mask is unclear. It appears in many forms and spellings in English, French, Spanish, Greek and even Pre-Indo-European languages. The roots of the word can mean black, specter, nightmare, more than the face, added face and the transformed.

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For humans, masks are a magical representation of a recognized other. What masks communicate is as delicate and intimate as the most basic human communication…a scream, a touch, a smile.

4 Responses to “The Mask Museum”

  1. Ursula March 29, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    The variety is amazing!

    • Jill March 29, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

      These are just a few of the many he had and all from Mexico.

  2. neil freer March 29, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    ya, but it’s those teeth, those teeth………….eeeeeehe

    • Jill March 29, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

      It’s just a smile Neil.

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