I always thought the giant mask was the North Wind. Artist, Chris Hardman, appointed me its guardian more than three decades ago when he moved from Venice, CA, to the Bay area.
Many years later, Chris shocked me when he asked, “How’s God doing?”
“Yes, that large mask,” he confirmed
Still incredulous I asked, “God is in my living room?”
That I had a representation of God living in my Los Angeles house overwhelmed me. I reflected on how I had assumed it was the North Wind.The mask’s puckered mouth was the major clue. I had discounted the naked female figures in its eyes, mustache, hair and beard that might have led me toward the theme of creation.
Chris Hardman’s God lived in my Los Angeles home for more than three decades, but the interior of my new Las Cruces interior could not accommodate its size and scale.I then had him hung in my patio yet worried about the impact of weather on it. Trying to allay my concerns, the contractor assured, “After all, it’s not the Mona Lisa.”
His words stung. To me, the mask of God was priceless, the equivalent of a personal Mona Lisa.
Recently, artist Layle Kinney, visited my home and noted that the wind and rain had taken a toll on this magnificent artifact. Coincidentally, she dealt with the paper maché medium and offered to repair him. It took four people to remove, wrap, carry and gently secure him to the back of her pick-up truck.
For weeks, my patio wall felt naked and off-putting, so I was thrilled when I received a call that “God” was ready for delivery.
On a chilly December Las Cruces afternoon, the artist and her family carefully returned my mask and rehung it. Aha! Everything now felt right again. And that is one of the many reasons why, on the brink of the New Year, 2015, I feel gratified.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist steeped in global beliefs and practices. Having the mask of God back in her possession is one of her idiosyncratic traditions.