Lauren Raine is a painter, a sculptor, a choreographer and a mask maker. To understand her masks, we need to understand the connection between masks and the idea of a person. The connection goes back to ancient times. In Greek and Roman comedy and tragedy, the characters of the plays, called personae, wore the familiar happy and sad masks. These masks contained little brass megaphones, which enabled the actor to project his voice over a large amphitheater. But the masks had more than a practical use; they allowed the actor to become a person he was not. They helped him create a new person. In fact, the word “person” comes from the Etruscan word for mask.
A mask is a paradox. It conceals a self, but it reveals a self, too. The psychologist Carl Jung spoke of something he called “archetypes,” which he believed were permanent potentials that existed in all of us, like masks that we wear. Jung claimed that archetypes came from something he called “the collective unconscious.” You don’t have to agree with Jung’s entire theory to recognize that there are recurring aspects to the self that everyone has, such as our male and female sides, which Jung called “animus” and “anima” and our public and secret sides, which Jung called “persona” and “shadow.”
Raine makes masks that represent archetypes. One she has used repeatedly is the Green Man, a vegetative deity common to many cultures. The Green Man stands for spring and rebirth and has leaves for his hair and beard. She has done several large-scale projects such as “Masks of the Goddess,” which features masked dancers in costume enacting such Celtic figures as Bridget, the goddess for whom Britain is named (seen here in red) and the pale Morrigan, goddess of battle and justice. Other figures include a Black Madonna, which is an Earth Mother figure reinvented as the Virgin Mary and Freya, the Norse goddess of love, for whom Friday is named. And just for fun (or perhaps because they represent the free spirit) Ms. Raine does half-masks of butterflies, too.
The beauty of these masks is that they crystallize an aspect of the self. By donning his Green Man mask, a man can bring out his regenerative energies and connect with an Earth that constantly renews itself. We all have a mythic side: a Hero on a journey, a goddess of love perpetuating life and ecstasy. We often embody these aspects of ourselves with gods and spirits. But we don’t have to believe in a haunted world to believe that there’s more to us than just atoms and a resume. Lauren Raine helps us connect with that rich and fertile substrate, thus allowing us to express and deepen ourselves.
The images in this article are copyright © Lauren Raine.