Leather Mask Sculptures
An exquisite exhibition of sculptured masks
10 October – 1st December, 2009
Opened Saturday 10th October at 2.30pm by Meredith Hinchliffe, Journalist and Arts Reviewer
Born in Burlingame, California, Michael Taylor is a graduate of both San José State and San Francisco Universities, where he studied art, sculpture and marine biology. At a graduate level he worked with renowned artists/teachers John Battenburg and Fletcher Benton and while enjoying oil painting and the genre of portraiture, he eventually moved almost entirely into welded sculpture.
After graduating he spent three years sailing around the world in a 17 metre yacht built with his father, returning to the US to continue his career as an artist. A 1976 commission in San Francisco to make a mask proved to be a pivotal point in his life. Between 1984 and 1988 he undertook a study tour focussing on masks. He made masks using native leathers and worked with local artists in Mexico, Hawaii, Fiji, Australia and South Africa.
His work is collected Internationally and he has exhibited and lectured throughout Australia and the US, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. Intrigued in 1988 by the excellence of his work, all carried out without the use of traditional leatherworking tools, the members of the International Leder Guild , the ancient guild of leatherworkers, have included his work in every touring exhibition since. In Australia an exhibition of his work toured Regional Galleries continuously for four and a half years.
Since 1992 Michael and Liz Taylor have lived and worked in South Eastern Queensland while raising their family. Michael has given the discipline of mask making in Australia, a country with little or no tradition of masks, a status it has not previously known.
When one conjours up thoughts that come to mind on the subjects of leather it may well be about the everyday, such as shoes, furniture, carry bags and so on, but in another light it could well be thoughts of more of an exotic even sensual nature like cowboys and Indians, bikies and bikers, bondage and even fetishes.
Allied to those ideas are notions of identity be it the physicality of projecting one’s character in the public eye or the psychological that of application of implied character or traits via the media induced hype such as in the present day case of the bikie.
Michael Taylor has plied his art-form that addresses both the primal notions addressed above for over 3 decades. Combining an almost unique way of working with leather as an artistic medium with the inherent nature of the mask as a personal hideaway of identity. Attaining an extraordinary level of sculptural skill first from his creative father, bolstered by degrees in Marine Biology and the structures and patterns of nature together with degrees in the arts.
Fascinated by the intrinsic concealment properties of the mask in society and opportunities afforded by the realism of leather in itself both a physical and metaphorical skin, this exhibition’s title Veneer sits well in the context of the Wood Works Gallery.
Taylor’s masks began as the basic identity concealing “Lone Ranger” inspired black leather mask quickly adopted worldwide by the 70’s underground Gay community. His rise to almost mega star status was aided by extensive involvement in the New Orleans Mardi Gras scene and then further afield, and the use of his masks by such luminaries of popular culture as musician Annie Lennox, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, director Clint Eastwood and actress and singer Cher.
With his artistic direction set as sculpture in general and exquisite leather masks in particular, he continued an evolutionary quest that has led him to the pinnacle of his art-form via the beauty of the worn mask, to the almost self descriptive asymmetrical sculptural forms of the present day. These are named thus identifying their characteristics, from the mythological, the actual or the language elements of exotic cultures, as well as icons, symbols, gods and goddesses of societies from the ancient past to the present day.
At a point in time Michael’s masks ceased to be wearable in terms of design and scale, and have evolved fully into sculptural objects. There are however still the signifiers of a mask present, like the ties that bind it to the the wearer. The eye sockets remain, waiting for the wearer’s own to fill the void. At this point the mask loses their ability to be identity concealing and rather, enters a realm of character description. By definition the mask is nothing without a face, and the face reveals little if anything of its character without its surrounding decoration and adornment.
Allow yourself to experience the character of the mask let your eyes and mind follow closely the mask’s seductive lines, curves, colours and adornments and the character locked within its name and ethnic or metaphorical source may be revealed to you. And if your mind perceives, or places, eyes in the vacant sockets of the mask don’t be alarmed, you will have been affected and are privileged, you have unlocked the character of the piece and its intrinsic beauty, mystery and being is yours for the beholding. You may also find references to yourself within the character of the mask. We all wear them throughout our varied lives.
Stan d'Argeavel MA(Visual Arts)