Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slave Mask

"Caption "Esclave Marron a Rio de Janeiro" (Fugitive/Runaway Slave in Rio de Janeiro), based on a drawing by a Mister Bellel. The engraving illustrates a brief article on fugitive slaves in Brazil, and is apparently derived from first-hand information. "Captured fugitives," the article notes, "are forced to do the hardest and roughest work. They are ordinarily placed in chains and are led in groups through the city's neighborhoods where they carry loads or sweep refuse in the streets. This type of slave is so frightful that, while they have lost all hope of fleeing again, they think of nothing but suicide. They poison themselves by drinking at one swallow a large quantity of strong liquor, or choke/suffocate themselves by eating dirt/earth. In order to deprive them of this way of causing their own deaths, they put a tin mask on their faces; the mask has only a very narrow slit in front of the mouth and a few little holes under the nose so they can breathe" (p. 229; our translation)."
Image and text found on US Slave Blog.  Link here.

What is that thing in 12 Years a Slave?

mask screenshotFrom the scene on the boat in "12 Years a Slave"
September 14, 2015
By Toussaint Heywood
In the movie 12 Years a Slave, a man is shown with a tin mask chained over his mouth, on the ship taking Solomon Northup and others from Richmond to New Orleans to be sold.

Northup does not mention anything similar in the book. The mask is presumably based on a famous lithograph published in 1839.

The problem is that this form of punishment was rarely, if ever, used in the U.S. The man in the lithograph below is a Brazilian drawn by Jacques Arago early in the 19th Century, though the drawing has been widely copied and sometimes adapted to portray a woman.
Brazilian maskIron mask and collar for punishing slaves, Brazil, 1817-1818 Source.
Even in Brazil, this particular device, a small mouth-covering held on with metal straps, seems to have been rare. The text referring to the punishment in Arago's book does not match the drawing. He says the face is entirely covered by the mask, and other illustrations of Brazilians show full-face masks. So the illustration isn't even of the most common Brazilian gag.

Even the supposed purpose of the mask doesn't fit with North American slavery. It was to prevent the wearer from committing suicide by eating dirt or, less often, by drinking alcohol.

This was a complaint not typical in Virginia where the slaves in 12 Years embarked, and certainly not on shipboard. Clay-eating was recognized in the deep south among both blacks and whites as an odd but not lethal habit.
Sir Charles Lyell wrote on a visit to the U.S. deep south, "We observed several negroes there, whose health had been impaired by dirt-eating, or the practice of devouring aluminous earth,—a diseased appetite, which, as I afterwards found, prevails in several parts of Alabama, where they eat clay." He doubted it was due to lack of food because he "was told of a young lady in good circumstances, who had never been stinted of her food, yet who could not be broken of eating clay."

That does not mean a gag was never used to punish slaves here. The U.S. gag or bit or muzzle was meant to punish slaves by preventing them from talking or eating anything without it being removed, though it did not cover the face.
journeyman cabinet-maker from the north reported: "In September, 1837, at 'Milligan's Bend,' in the Mississippi river, I saw a negro with an iron band around his head, locked behind with a pad lock. In the front, where it passed the mouth, there was a projection inward of an inch and a half, which entered the mouth. The overseer told me, he was so addicted to running away, it did not do any good to whip him for it. He said he kept this gag constantly on him, and intended to do so as long as he was on the plantation: so that, if he ran away, he could not eat, and would starve to death. The slave asked for drink in my presence; and the overseer made him lie down on his back, and turned water on his face two or three feet high, in order to torment him, as he could not swallow a drop.--The slave then asked permission to go to the river; which being granted, he thrust his face and head entirely under the water, that being the only way he could drink with his gag on. The gag was taken off when he took his food, and then replaced afterwards."
Decades later, Milliken's (Milligan's) Bend would become the site of a June 7, 1863 battle, one of the first where soldiers of "African descent" fought. Charles A. Dana later recalled, "The bravery of the blacks in the battle at Milliken's Bend completely revolutionized the sentiment of the army with regard to the employment of negro troops."

Other U.S. witnesses described similar items. C. G. Parsonswrote in 1855: "The Gag is a piece of iron, about three inches in length, one inch in width at one end, half an inch at the other, and about one eighth of an inch in thickness. This instrument is put into the mouth, over the tongue, with the narrow end inside, while the wide end is left projecting through the lips. The outer end is inserted into a small strap of iron that passes over the mouth, the ends of which extend around to the back of the neck, where they are fastened together by a rivet, or a padlock. With this long, wide piece of iron thus confined on the tongue, the slave is truly gagged, — as he is unable to utter a syllable."

Civil War officer observed near New Orleans: "Another article is a heavy iron collar, with a mouth-piece, or 'gag' attached. This gag comes up from beneath the chin, and is immovably fixed in the mouth. In order to speak, eat or drink, it must be removed."

While the producers of 12 Years a Slave may have wanted to show the torture inflicted on enslaved people by metal instruments, they chose an uncommon Brazilian devise that was actually milder than what could have been used in the U.S. 

One of the best analyses of the lithograph showing the Brazilian slave is by J. Handler and A. Steiner, "Identifying Pictorial Images of Atlantic Slavery: Three Case Studies," Slavery and Abolition 27 (2006), 56-62. The original image appeared in Jacques Etienne Victor Arago, Souvenirs d'un aveugle, Voyage autour du monde par M. J. Arago, (Paris, 1839-40), vol. 1, facing p. 119.
Source link here. 

Death Masks

"In Western cultures, a death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold. In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or another artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites. The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamon’s burial mask.
In the seventeenth century in some European countries, it was common for death masks to be used as part of the effigy of the deceased, displayed at state funerals. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they were also used to permanently record the features of unknown corpses for purposes of identification. This function was later replaced by photography.Wikipedia."  Text and image source from Knowledge Is Power blog.  Link here.

Photos, from upper left:

A patinated bronze death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte is on display during a Los Angeles auction preview November 2, 2001 at Butterfileds in Los Angeles, CA.
The golden death mask of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen. 1950.
Two men making a death mask, New York, circa 1908.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Paola Antonelli Treats Design as Art

Since she stepped back from practicing architecture in order to focus on writing about design, teaching and curating gallery exhibitions, Italian native Paola Antonelli has become a force to be reckoned with in the design world. Working at the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 1994, she now heads up the gallery's Architecture and Design department and has worked on shows such as "Humble Masterpieces," which celebrated traditionally unheralded design icons such as the paperclip; "Safe," considering issues of protection, and "Workspheres," a look at contemporary workplace design.

Source is TED Talks

Hector Sos, Artist

Source is Face Culture.  Link here.

Erwin Wurm x Walter van Beirendonck: Performative Sculptures

"These fairy-floss-like human sculptures are the result of a creative collaboration between Austrian performance artist Erwin Wurm and celebrated Belgian fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck. The series, called Performative Sculptures, essentially involves five people wearing tutu tulle walking around the museum garden at designated times."  Source is Oyster Daly.  Link here.

Adidas Pink

Charlie Le Mindu, Artist

Source is Face Culture.  Link here.

Painted Brides

Koxovar-Bosnian Bride
The tradition, whose origins date from beyond living memory, is virtually viewed by almost all residents with universal pride as it has come to symbolize this place’s special identity. The bride has her face painted to prevent bad luck during the wedding ceremony. Donje Ljubinje is situated in the Shar mountains that form the border between Kosovo and FYROM. The inhabitants call themselves ‘Torbesh.’"  Above images and text from Face Culture.  Link here.

Bulgarian Bride
Source link here


Madame Peripetie, Artist

"‘Madame Peripetie’ aka Sylwana Zybura is a Polish photographer based in Germany. Sylwana explores the boundaries between fashion, sculpture and the human body, experimenting with various fabrics and patterns; whilst infusing high-fashion elements with abstract and conceptual ideas, creating an eccentric escapade of colour and texture. Her inspirations include surrealism and dadaism as well as the new wave era of the 80s and British post punk scene. Alongside her BA studies in photography at the University of Applied Sciences and Art, Dortmund, Germany, Sylwana also collaborates with up-and-coming fashion designers and is experimenting with short stop-motion films."  Source is Face Culture.  Link here.
Artist website link here.

Soap Doll


Source is Mid-Century Treasures on Etsy.  Link here.

Gas Masks

Air raid wardens demonstrate a gas mask designed for the elderly 
and those with chest complaints during a mock gas attack 
in which tear gas was released, London, April 5 1941.
Source is Photos of War.  Link here.


I do not have source for this image.  Source info can be e-mailed to me

3D to 2D, Example

I do not have a source for this image.  
E-mail source info to

Dinu, Artist, based in Singapore

Dinu is a Romanian-born designer, currently living and working in Singapore. His practice focusses mainly on designing head-wear with a strong emphasis on challenging the use of new materials / textile for hat-making. Dinu studied at London College Of Fashion and graduated in 2011.

Steven Klein, Artist, American, b. 1965

It's About Time, Student Work

Douglas Stearns. Cross section of soap carving that was painted.

Marlena Lomonaco, Gregor's Room, Student Work

Example of how to solve structural problems with no tape or glue.

Tanis Montgomery, Student Work

These in process pictures show the slow observational process of carving.

Bianca Borghi, Student Work

Mallory Bielecki, Student Work

Excellent example of professional photos and the assignment.

Maggie Lawlor, Student Work

Process pictures of soap carving and a clever solution to adding on the horns.

Victoria Dexter, Student Work

Great examples of photographing three-dimensional work at various angles.