Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Field Day -- Sulka masks

The model canceled last Saturday, so Buono and I went to the Field Museum of Natural History -- hoping to get into the last days of the Pompeii exhibit. But it was a crowded madhouse -- so we were left to wander at will through those enormous galleries of dinosaur bones, stuffed animals, and cultural artifacts (I prefer the later)

We wandered into the New Guinea rooms -- and, boy , did we have fun! For Buono, the jungle fighter, the photographs provided another Vietnam flashback of strange flora and fauna -- and for me, I guess I fell in love with this goofy head-gear of the Sulka people. Apparently Marshall Field was the first American mega-millionaire to collect artifacts from this area (1910) so he got the good stuff -- from the last generation to carry on the tradition. These objects were intended to be temporary -- as indeed they were -- so this little collection is all that's left.

These objects feel playful and goofy -- but they also feel (at least to me) like an attempt to be comfortable: to have everything porportional and in its proper place. And they feel like adult love songs -- sweet, vulnerable, passionate, possessed.

In contrast -- I quickly pulled the above image off a site of local artists. What a difference ! How to describe that difference ? Maybe -- just to call it an attempt to be uncomfortable -- i.e. to be a contemporary artist. Or maybe it's the difference between a healthy young Sulka man ("look what I've got, baby") -- and an angry, contemporary American woman ("just try it, buddy")


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