Untitled N95 #8
Mixed-media clay mask
Wild clay & drying binder, acrylic & iridescent medium, gold leaf, glass, black
onyx, cedar berry, German silver
Kimberly Lollis-McCauley, 2020
During the initial days of the shelter in place orders enacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was invited by a few friends to contribute to a project for traditional/contemporary Indigenous artists while living through physical and social distancing. The group, called Breathe., has a statement for their social media group:
“Plagues and pandemics have affected us before. We have survived. We remain diligent in our resilience.”
Their statement resonated with me while I isolated with my two young children out on our family’s 60-acre homestead. Far from access to anything or anyone, we would remain there for the coming months. I started out with a few different styles, including cloth, buckskin, paper maché. None felt right. I couldn’t get my heart into them.
As someone who has a long and storied relationship with depression, digging my fingers into soil, clay included, has a profoundly positive impact on my mental health. With this in mind, I stepped away from the mask I was sewing as I was increasingly sinking under anxiety/depression. I realized that with this quarantine, I’m allowed to stop, step back, and go a different direction. So, I went on a hike, dug my fingers into the ground and gathered fresh, dark, rich clay. Then I knew what I wanted to make. I started by making a template using the exact measurements for a disposable N95 mask.
This has been a process! A journey of experimentation. My goal was to only use what I had available during isolation. To only use colors that brought me joy. I broke seven different masks while experimenting with different processes,
but I sought and found peace during the journey. When we had a family member pass away from Covid19, my second mask shattered after testing out a pit-firing process. Starting over again on the next attempt helped me focus on something positive during all this heartache and chaos. I was bound and determined to incorporate my wild clay into this mask so I mixed it with a drying binder. Colored purple with an iridescent medium and gold leaf. White glass seed beads, black onyx, cedar berries, and gold-leafed German silver trade cones.
*6/2/2020: As of writing this, my project is complete and submitted for review. Once my work goes through the jury process I will update this post to indicate whether my mask was accepted to be exhibited! – Kimberly