Local artist Frankie Toan creating masks in his home

Local Artists Embrace New Canvas: Face Masks

Given our current reality, we have all had to adjust to wearing face masks when out in public. We commend the local makers who've been creating masks for charitable purposes—like the Denver Mask Task Force, which provides masks for homeless shelters to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the groups highlighted in this article who have made masks for RTD workers. And it has been wonderful to see artists using masks as an opportunity for creativity and expression.

Denver artist Frankie Toan is one such artist who has been wholeheartedly contributing to the Denver Mask Task Force and has found creative freedom working in this medium. Frankie’s personal masks shows masks can still be beautiful and express your individuality.

"I started making the 'art masks' as a way to break up the monotony of making the 'regular' masks. Having now made well over 100 masks (I’ve lost count) for loved ones and for local homeless shelters and RTD drivers, I am very aware of how masks are a new and vital wardrobe additions for the foreseeable future," they said. "I think we should all have a variety of masks to wear that fit our outfits, outings, and moods. I have realized when I go out how much I acknowledge others and communicate with my face—half of which is now blocked by my mask—so why not replace this facial communication with a visual message? Why not have fun with our masks?"

Local artist Frankie Toan wearing the face masks he created
Photos courtesy of Frankie Toan

Elizabeth Morisette, an artist based in Fort Collins, also found inspiration in the mask form. She's been applying her signature found material technique to create a beautiful, yet intimidating shape out of zippers reminiscent of a gas mask.

"This mask was made during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 stay at home order. I was creating work for a Fiber show in Estes Park and all of the work needed to be made out of zippers," she says. "I started thinking about how the Austrian painter Hundertwasser would react to this global pandemic. His work is environmental but also has a touch of humor.  The 'Hundertwasser Gas Mask' piece is an homage to him. In addition to this sculptural piece, I have also been making face masks for the community.  I have made 500 so far and sent them all over the country including the Navajo nation, New York City, Pittsburgh, and in Michigan."

Local artist Elizabeth Morisette modeling her face mask
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Morisette

Buying masks from local makers is a great way to support them and art during this challenging time. This article in 303 Magazine highlights a few you can purchase today.

Have you also been making masks? Share your work with us by tagging @denverartmuseum on social media.

Mary Beth Polce is a major gifts officer in the development department at the Denver Art Museum. Mary Beth has been at the DAM since 2013 and her favorite exhibition that has been on view here is Spun: Adventures in Textiles.

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