Face/Mask: Decoding the Human Gaze

Exhibit Dates: 
Mar 7, 2014 - Mar 30, 2014
Elizabeth Denison Hatch Gallery

Whose face do you see when you look in the mirror? Is it the literal "you" or the "you" filtered through your mood and situation at the time of viewing? When we look at another's face or at a picture, are we able to decipher what lies beneath the surface?  - Hugh Atkins & Deborah Johnson


The human gaze is powerful... to really see others by looking into their eyes implies that others see us as well, but does “to see and be seen" automatically imply “we know and are known." It's disquieting to think that while we are making assumptions based on appearance others are doing the same. These questions of identity have always perplexed us.

To resolve this many ancient societies used ritual masks. Masks bestowed the wearer with an alternate identity, amplified the wearer's power and provided a way to avoid being "seen".  We have not transcended the desire to wear masks. We go to great lengths with our physical appearance and we construct social identities based on carefully curated images of ourselves and our experiences for social media pages. These careful choices help us assemble a mask to filter the way others view us.

The art we create and surround ourselves with often serves a similar function. Art brings another dimension to our fascination with constructing identities for ourselves and others. The very act of creating the art commits the artist to share parts of their identity with the viewer, and by choosing to manipulate the human gaze as a subject we must confront ourselves in the images of others faces.

- Deborah Johnson