Photo by Jordan Auker
After making theater masks for more than 20 years, Jonathan Becker’s works will be on display at the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art.
“It always feels great to be recognized for the work I’ve done. I was deeply flattered to have been asked to display work at the gallery. I have only had three gallery shows in the last 20 years. My masks are used for performance, so they are seldom on display,” said Becker who is an associate professor of theater, specializing in movement, at Ball State.
The gallery brought Becker’s masks to New Harmony as a part of its outreach partnership with USI. Its mission statement says the gallery aims to provide an opportunity to artists and to create dialogue within the region.
“I enjoy seeing[the masks] all in one place from time to time. It reminds me that I have created a body of work and that inspires me to keep moving forward and exploring new things,” Becker said. “The masks in the show were chosen to show the wide range of types of masks that are offered by the studio. I think there are designs in the show that span at least 20 years of sculpting.”
For Becker, crafting masks isn’t just a business venture, ”he sells some of his masks on his website theater-masks.com”, it means telling a story.
“Masks are an expressive form. They are living sculptures. To create a mask is to create something that allows one to transform, to speak more deeply of the human condition and to tell stories that speak to the struggle of what it is to be human,” Becker said.
Becker said his inspiration isn’t limited to a single category when it comes to creating a mask.
“I am inspired by all sorts of things,” he said, “I am inspired by masks of other cultures, animals, objects and the never-ending provocations that are ever emerging from my imagination.”
Becker has been crafting masks since 1986 while he was a student at The International School of Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, and even though he still makes masks, his approaches are different.
“The masks have changed, and the work has progressed over the years. It is easier to experiment because I don’t see every decision as precious any longer,” Becker said. “If I spend 6 hours on something and it isn’t working, then I just scrap it and start over. It’s all part of the process now and not something that seems like a failure or waste of time.”
The New Harmony Gallery is featuring Becker’s works until Feb. 18 when the closing ceremony is scheduled to take place.
“I think it’s just a time for me to meet folks and I’ll talk about the masks a little,” Becker said. “I always wind up demonstrating a mask or two since they look completely different when worn than when hanging on the wall.”