Noah Travis Phillips ~
Mask @ Vicki Myhren Gallery @ University of Denver
Unmasked: Artful Responses to the Pandemic @ Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC)
Noah Travis Phillips
AntiCoronavirus Mask, 2020
100% Organic Cotton
Masks are one of the earliest/most ancient forms of human expression. This mask became a kind of memento mori (Life is short and goes fast.): crashing globe/fallen earth, poisonous serpent (& other animals) threatening, pencil drawing of my mouth – screaming, a rainbow hummingbird, tragic theater masks, even an optical illusion and a dreamachine pattern. Some of the symbols are archetypal: skull, hourglass, but also a molotov cocktail, and a roaring panther.
There are more crises than just the pandemic, and this mask is intended to speak to multiple of them. Bandanas are one of the least effective forms of protection against COVID-19 – both reducing droplet transmission by 75% and allowing droplets to travel @3ft. – and should be worn in addition to something like a stitched double-layered cotton mask. (The design is larger than a normal bandana’s dimensions to accomodate an interior mask. ) Bandanas are better at concealing identity. They are scrappy and associated with outlaws, activists, and even anarchists, among other (sub)cultures. I have often worn a bandana and always wanted an excuse to be able to wear one all the time. These multiple, simultaneous, systemic crises have given many people(s) reason(s).
You could say I appropriated the idea (a skull bandana that wraps around the face, making the wearer look like a skeleton). A basic skullface bandana mask was my favorite facemask when I was first leaving the house after the initial lockdown. It communicated something important about the experience I was having and how I felt about so many people not taking the situation seriously, or even just being willing to try.
I had been flirting with the idea of making a mask since the pandemic began. I started working with the same “digital ↔ analog” methods that I always use. I made multiple digital tests/mock-ups, and sketches. And I improved the design via an iterative method with paper and fabric protoypes. Open flat, the mask can be displayed by being hung on a wall. When worn, the mask is “reversible” featuring two different designs. There is a secret side to the mask.
The artist, wearing AntiCoronavirus Mask in their studio.