New Brunswick artists are turning masks into art to help the community cope with the pandemic

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Masks are an everyday sight that wasn’t so common two years ago.

And like any other everyday object, artists were not going to pass it up without finding art, meaning and symbolism in its simple form.

For the exhibition Isolated//Together, 14 New Brunswick artists have been chosen to design wearable masks to mark their cultural impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results are masks made from unconventional materials — and they’re certainly not meant to stop the spread of the virus.

A beaded mask by artist Kyanna Kingbird, part of the exhibition at Sunbury Shores in Saint Andrews. (Submitted by Sudbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre)

Instead, one is made from local Hillsborough herbs, woven to cover the mouth with long red and blue tassels. There is a beaded mask and a metal one, using the face as a canvas.

“It’s a different way of presenting the masked face and sending it back to the culture,” said Joel Mason, artistic director of the Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Center in Saint Andrews, where the masks are on display.

A couture mask by Alevtina Sharapova. (Submitted by Sudbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre)

Mason said this project is not something new. The art of clothing dates back to the days of the plague in Venice and Italy, where people wore long masks resembling birds, and even further back to ancient Egypt.

“[We] take huge events that we struggle to process…and we reinterpret and render them as a way for us, all together as a community, to make more sense,” he said. Morning Information Saint John.

Mason said while it hasn’t been easy to exhibit art in a gallery during the pandemic, it hasn’t been impossible.

A mask woven from grass by artist Ralph Simpson. (Submitted by Sudbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre)

He said Sunbury Shores was doing an interactive gallery, where visual artists would set up in one of the windows, display their art and paint live from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. maintain social distancing.

The gallery also had a haiku workshop and displayed the results on another window.

The project was initially a collaboration with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and Atlantic Ballet of Canada.

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