Joan Jonas


I started using masks after I went to Japan and saw the Noh Theater in 1970. Masks hid my face from the audience and gave me another persona. Masks inspire me to move in a different way, behave in a different way, and mask my personality, which I like.

Recently I worked with two beautiful animal masks I found in Mexico. Ragani Haas wore a gray-wolf mask in the video Wolf Lights (from The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things) as she improvised animal-like movements in my costume against a backdrop of the Las Vegas marquee lights. Galia Eibenshutz wore a large, orange dog head was in a Mexican lava field for a video backdrop in Dante II and in Dante III. Both pieces evoke an animal spirit in repetitive ritualized movements. I myself wore the orange mask in an improvisation with the Delusional Downtown Divas in my loft. They had come to make a skit that would be seen on YouTube, and the mask transformed the moment. I have a collection of screen masks and theater masks from various places; some of my favorites are from South America. Recently a friend gave me some really strange screen masks he had found in Cape Breton. They appear to be from Masonic rituals. I have found many wonderful papier mâché masks of all kinds of animals in the markets of Mexico City.

I am currently making my own masks