shaman’s work, seek and ye shall find

Dave was the first person to hand in his statement. It should be noted he is also the last one to receive his mask. Nine months, he patiently waits.  A quick reminder…I ask the group to answer three question for me to use to create the design of the mask. 

plastered dave

plastered dave

The simple questions are the hardest…. But it does make me realize it is useful to try to answer them. Dave admits, It is hard to see myself, because I always feel transparent.
This pre-statement comment completely influences how I approach decoration of this mask.

Challenge #1: How to bring transparency into an opaque, plaster mask.
Answer: Surface layered with transparent applications…gloss finish to enhance translucency.

…How do I describe what that means? I feel others can see me for who I am more easily than I can see them. They know my true intent, as it is evident, but harder for me to see theirs.
Perhaps Dave, we all relate to this quality in ourselves at one time or other.
Well, enough of that, here it goes….
and it begins

transparent dave

keeping dave transparent


The first sentence directs me toward the interior of the mask…
So, “who am I”: Just a fleck of stardust, floating in the void, that happened to glom together in an organic fashion, allowing me to think and have self-awareness.
I wonder who/what exactly allows Dave to think and have self awareness…the glom? its organic make-up?
He continues… But that is temporary, and all-too brief. And also gives me a false sense of being separate from the universe, being unique and more important than, say , a rock. But it ain’t so!  
Humility and lightheartedness. 

sidedave2. “What am I?” 
A seeker, a Shaman
I accentuate both eyes, with gold.
Being a doctor is part of a shaman’s job, but I don’t look at it as an all-consuming part of my life. That’s just how Shaman translates in modern society. The real point is a much bigger job. 

3. Which brings me to the third question: “what is this world, and what is my relationship to it?”
That is the great mystery. How can something be eternal, endless, and everywhere. Doesn’t make sense from our human perspective.
I would clarify, it doesn’t make sense from a logical humans perspective…loose the logic Dave! 
But I see the “human condition” like being born and living in a box, not knowing what all is out there. And in the past years, physicists have been looking over the edge of the box and trying to make sense of what they see, and, funny enough, the description is pretty similar to what the mystics came up with centuries ago.


So, I guess that’s what I am seeking, a “Unified Theory of Everything”….similar to what the physicists seek, a unified theory of all matter and energy, but inclusive of the mystical (or religious) view of the universe, rather than excluding one side or the other…. Because it is all one, and all connected, that is obvious.  
His thoughts flow, one right after the other…deducing. Lines appear on the side of the mask. Strings of thought. I’m thinking I might use some text…he’s a thinker.

…But in order to function, and in order to survive, we have had to disconnect (hard to catch a fish when you are having visions), and now we are stuck in that view.
I think this is important insight, because it stands if we got ourselves stuck we can certainly get ourselves unstuck, right?
…Whew! I hope that gives you enough to chew on! It was actually fun, writing some of this down.

fontaldaveMaybe I should try to do that more, so that I can develop those ideas better and flesh them out, as well as seeing the weaknesses better.
Instead of text design, I opt for a Caduceus down the center of the mask, because Dave talks specifically about being a Doctor. And because the symbol is also connected to the Kundalini, (Sanskrit for “coiled”) the coiled serpent that awakens and rises with levels of enlightenment…knowledge…which Dave appears willing to strive for. And also because in all of his logic there is also abstraction.



He concludes...Hmmm “David Explains Everything”….is that a catchy title? Or a little too pompous? 🙂 We’ll leave the rest for another conversation.
Intriguing. Fun. Sincere. Yes Dave, we will have more conversation.  



maker of light


Light. Warmth. Power.

I look up Aztec sun god, there are numerous ones. Briefly, the mythology identifies 5 suns each one representing one of the 5 ages.
Tezcatlipoca (smoking mirror) was the first god to be a sun.
His replacement is Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent), who becomes the next sun.
Tlaloc,  god of rain,  follows.
Then comes the Aztec sun goddess – Tlaloc’s sister, Chalchiuhtlicue. She is chosen next ruler of the sky.
Nanauatl the humble god, is the final Aztec sun god.  He is given the name Tonatuih.  It is Tonatuih’s face that many believe to be on the Aztec calendar stone.
And depending on which version of the story you read, the god Ehecatl (the god of wind) is also one of the sun gods.

unsol2Continue into Mayan mythology where Kinich Ahau is the sun god. He is the patron god of the city Itzamal and is said to visit the city at noon everday. Kinich Ahau  wears the symbol of Kin, a Mayan day. Kinich Ahau is also know by the name Ah Xoc Kin, associated with poetry and music.

In Greek mythology the sun is personified as Helios.  Helios is depicted as a handsome god crowned with the shining aureole of the sun, who drives the chariot of the sun across the sky each day, circling the earth. In time Helios is identified with the god of light, Apollo.
The equivalent of Helios in Roman mythology is Sol, specifically Sol Invictus, also known as the unconquered sun.
Egyptian mythology introduces us to Ra (or Re),the sun god. He is the supreme power in the universe. The giver of life.
In Hinduism, Surya is the chief solar deity. Surya refers to the Sun, in general. Surya has hair and arms of gold. Surya drives through the heaven in his triumphal chariot harnessed by seven horses or one horse with seven heads  He presides over “Surya-waar” or Sunday. Surya Namaskara is a yogic sun salutation.

My research finds numerous mythologies, numerous sun gods.

Then I come across Awonawilona of Pueblo Indian mythology.  The One Who Contains Everything. Before the creation there was only Awonawilona; all else was darkness and emptiness.  Awonawilona created everything from himself and taking form became the maker of light, the Sun.

I find what I am looking for…Maker of the Light becomes him.


on a vision quest

Lawrence at 10 years old

Lawrence at 10 years old

I’ve known of Lawrence since he was a child because he is my nephew Manuel’s buddy. Lawrence is blind. He lives in El Paso, Texas, my home town. And attends El Paso high school, my old stomping grounds. I had a chance to better acquaint myself with him and his family in July of 2003, when they were in Phoenix, and dropped in to visit my studio.

His grandmother saw some newly completed masks on my walls. At the time I was working on creating a workshop, so I could apply to the Artist Roster at the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She asked if I could come to her school and work with her teachers. She was the principal of Vilas elementary at the time. She thought it would be great if I could teach her faculty the process and they could in turn work with their kids in the upcoming school year. The whole faculty would be involved. I jumped at the opportunity.

By August I was headed to El Paso, to my old neighborhood in fact, to teach a mask making In Service for teachers. The 2 day workshop was successful. I enjoyed all the staff and spent some time with family and friends, and then returned to Phoenix with a very full experience from which to complete the design of my current mask making workshop, The Who Am I Project.

In the process I worked with Lawrence. I made a mask of him at the request of his grandparents. I painted it. He informed me of his color choices, black and white he said. and he specifically asked if I could add African designs. He is of mixed descent, Hispanic and African American. I wondered how he understood color and how would he know an African design say… from Native American design? He answered my questions by simple description. I was impressed. I knew I would make the mask tactile so he could experience it with his hands.

interior of mask, internal life

interior of mask, representing a rich internal life

He got excited about the completed work, which I delivered. Why am I telling you about Lawrence?

Lawrence was born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. His optic nerve never developed and he has been blind since birth. Recently his family learned of the Shenzhen Beike Biotechnology Company, Ltd. located in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. This company has partnered with leading scientists, prestigious hospitals across China, and over 250 doctors specializing in delivering stem cell therapy to treat neurological and other ailments.

After researching the company and speaking with two patients who have had very positive results with the treatment, his mother submitted the necessary application requesting treatment for Lawrence. She received a letter of acceptance in March. The doctors in the medical department at Shenzhen Beike Biotechnology Company, Ltd. feel confident that Lawrence’s Optic Nerve Hypoplasia can be treated successfully.

His mom, an El Paso elementary school teacher, has taken action to raise the funds.

My husband really wanted to help out. We decided to donate an artwork to the cause. Hank, over at the Art Center on Yandell street (and my one time employer) agreed to donate the framing.

Musical Colors

Musical Colors

If you are inclined to contribute, you can donate $10.00. By doing so your name will be entered into a drawing to win this 36″ x 24″, mixed media, framed and matted, painting on paper work I have designed. A name will be drawn at the end of May.

You can send a check payable to Lawrence Brown, for the $10.00. Include your name, address and contact info and mail to:

Georgina A. Brown
4349 N. Stanton Street
El Paso, Texas 79902
Questions? email Goergina

Or you can donate directly to a fund set up for Lawrence Brown III, at any Wells Fargo Bank, Account Number 7579914230.  As of this posting, they have acquired over half the funds.

To read more about Lawrence and this procedure, click here.



Update: click here.

*On a side note, I have since continued to teach the Who Am I ? Project across the valley, to adults and kids alike.

UPDATE: Posted on June 11, 2009: Winner of the painting is Mr. Jon Bardouché. He is a world geography teacher at El Paso High. Congrats Mr. Jon Bardouché!

Thanks everyone.  

good, and a little bad…cont.

Part 2
The Mask 
Veronica is succinct in her personal statement. 


plaster prep

1. Who am I? 
Potential, Clarity, Intelligence, Child of God, Lover of life and all creatures great and especially small – big sister, earth mother, Seeker of beauty and wisdom within and without. 
I see it.  
My mother said I am Beauty, Intelligence and Perfection. 
Wow, lucky girl! 
I am seeking to become one with something like that I suppose.  
If we could all lean in this way, how would the world appear. 

Veronica is clear about who she is and what is important to her. It seems to me that she moves through life in a thoughtful and considerate manner. The color purple will be dominant in her mask.  It’s an expression of higher energy, in various mythologies. The right upper area of the head will be the space for some of her descriptive words.



 2. What am I?  
Good, and a little bad...The draw, I like these words. Curiosity peeked. Connection made. With any sort of goodness, we are all just a little bad. Yes, go ahead and think about it some more…
A black and white ground will sit at the area of the frontal lobe.





sidevShe continues…
Hard-working, reliable and very lucky, love and loved, innocent and wise, curious, thinker and I see with a very strong intuition, imagination, creativity, and humor (
reliable and helper, too)
This information I will suggest in details….bright colors, shapes, lines….vside







am married to a wonderfully sweet, good, good man who has become a better man knowing me (and vice versa).  At this point it is clear, there will be some visual connections to her husband’s mask. Complements. I also recall Jean Cocteau‘s connected profiles and know the interior of the mask will be a simple, light-hearted face to face, in black and white.



3. What is this world? And what is my relationship to it?  
Temporal beauty, a marvelous system that can be trusted and deserves our respect, we are all God’s creations….and the good lord who made us, he made and loves us all

I make things better.
Yes V, you really do.



She completes her statement by sharing one of her favorite passages, Proverbs 8:27-32. 

I was there when he established the heavens and formed the great springs in the depths of the oceans.  I was there when he set the limits of the seas and gave them his instructions not to spread beyond their boundaries.  I was there when he made the blueprint for the earth and oceans.  I was the craftsman at his side.  I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.  And how happy I was with what he created — his wide world and all his family of mankind!  And so, young men, listen to me, for how happy are all who follow my instructions.



warm up self

warm up self

When planning began for portrait drawing Dominique reacted a bit. She claimed she couldn’t draw. She wondered why she would want to spend the day doing something she knew she was not good at. Logical. Eventually she clarified, she could not draw well. This is what didn’t fly with me. I wasn’t asking anyone to draw well. But I understood. I wasn’t sure she would participate. I had an alternate plan if that was the case. Upon arriving to my studio that Saturday afternoon, she was fully committed to drawing. She entered with humor in tow, in the form of a brown bag with eyes and mouth cutouts. She was going to wear the bag over her head and draw exactly what she saw. She smiled widely as she showed it to me.

Everyone brought a prop.  An object that could be drawn into the portrait, to inform us about the person drawn. Her play prop was the brown bag. Her real object was a shell.  She collects them.  She has hundreds of shells. Recently I spent an afternoon with her, looking and learning about land shells and sea shells. So much great variety.


Dominique's first warm up of Lalo

warm up of Lalo

Dominique completed several warm up drawings that afternoon. They were good, as you can see. As she progressed we all decided her work was very good. Maybe she agreed at some point. Eventually she explained why exactly she was not drawn to drawing a representational portrait. 
Later her and I discussed learning to see and putting down what one sees, as opposed to being creative. She knew she was not being creative. I appreciated she understood the difference. Dominique is a careful observer, she is a biologist. She has an eye for detail. Putting down on paper what she saw, seemed to come very natural. Her eyes and hand coordinated very well.

Final Self Portrait

Final Self Portrait

Dominique is a Yogi. And she is steadfast. She prepared for her final-self portrait, while sitting crossed legged. She inhaled deeply several times. I watched, as with each breath, she became centered. She asked one very good question about working organically, and as soon as she understood the answer, she moved into a freer space. She completed the drawing by adding her shell to the lower right area and to the left she wrote, Why is she so serious, dammit! Dominique can be serious, but loosens and lightens very readily. Probably easier than I do. Her final portrait, on the left, is impressive. The drawing tool…a Sharpie marker. Understand this means there is no erasing. 

Dominique is interesting in that she appears to always be so fully present. She observes, listens, acts and reacts to the world with all of herself.  Bright. Curious. Open. Her eyes, her mind, words, her body, hands…all of her participates.

dominique in plaster

dominique en yeso

Her written statement chooses to focus on…What is this world and what is my relationship to it. When I first read her thoughts I get such clear pictures of how to approach the design. I decide her words are personal, literal and grounded. As I start to collect materials, I am confused and reread her statement. Maybe her words are not so personal, not literal, but metaphorical and abstract. And they become more so as I reread them. Poetic. Water, air and maybe ether…more than ground. 



processing Dominique

inside of the mask

inside of the mask


This world, this planet with green lungs, is a space traveler packed with life in all of its many-fold splendor. This sentence paints the inside of the mask. I imply green lungs within a moving water and space spiral. 

It teems with a huge variety of living things, each a supreme example of the pluripotency of life.  Even the likes are unlike each other, each member of each species, animal or plant, is a little work of living art. A nicely stated truth.

Even the inert parts of our planet, the mineral kingdom, is rife of evidence of past and present plasticity.  It is always changing and one can hardly keep ones eyes open enough to see even a small part of the action.  
I scribble onto my sketch pad…Pattern. Variety. Shapes. Movement. Connecting threads. Spirals. There will be lots of activity within an order of some sort. 



Water, of course is always mobile and truly the “sine qua non” spring of life…this sentence floats by itself. It resets my thought for the inside of the mask.

Back to the world and her relationship to it…I am an infinitesimally small part of its magnificence, trying to honor life by actively participating in it. What a statement of identificationAn active participant in every way…could in fact describe Dominique.
She signs off, Verdentia.  
Is she referring to Truth?  The color green? Yes!…I can almost hear her say loudly, though she is nowhere near me as I write.

Dominique loves the color green, truly, she does. Green is an appropriate color to represent this potent life form.



medicine man

Fate, Greg

Fate, Greg

Greg’s self-portrait is titled Fate.  In the upper right corner is what appears to be a thought form. He explains it is a child’s medical file. A child he crossed paths with early on in his career. Does the title suggest the child’s fate? Greg’s?  Both. The title of a work helps to inform the viewer.
On portrait day, Greg sat down, with his pad and marker in hand to draw, easily and quietly. Too quietly, I thought.  He appeared so focused that I walked past him several times hoping to not disturb him. 

plaster mold

plastered Greg

Greg is a lively person. His laughter is full, and his face is very animated. You can see in the image to the right, even with the plaster on his face, he smiles…this is Greg. The quiet, absorbed Greg in my studio took me by surprise. And a month later, when he lay down to get his mask made, he surprised me again. He became quickly still. 

processingg greg

processingg greg


Everyone completed a statement.  They answered questions. Who Am I?  What am I? What is this world?  What is my relationship to it?  I start to gather materials for Greg’s mask, as soon as I begin to read his words. Greg understood he could answer the questions in numerous ways. He begins literal and ends metaphorical.






I am an Hispanic (Mexican/Latino) male raised in a very strict Catholic Tradition with a huge emphasis on religion, heritage and education.  I visualize copper, and I begin to foresee the upper area of his head  filled with English and Spanish text…cerebral representations. He continues…As a youngster I viewed myself as athletic and smart.  I always new I would be a physician but also thought I could play major league baseball. Thank God I succeeded at the former. Greg is a family care physician. The next sentence sets up the initial symmetrical layout; I have always had a thirst for the sciences and religious studies/philosophy. 

Over the years my faith has been challenged and I am still not certain where I will end up. Honest. Connection.  I guess this goes back to making sure I live an “examined life.” I have never been a real good follower anyway. At the  Uof A I was fortunate to meet Fr. Robert who was/is a Dominican Priest and good friend of mine. I learned that Catholics have not cornered the market on “Truth.” They haven’t? I’ll have to talk to Father John, who believes they have. I have been exposed to some great minds including leading reformation scholars and theologians of our time. Enter into design, a labyrinth, center right, at the cheek bone. It seemed a most appropriate symbol.



My profession does not define me although it does help me from spending too much time concerned about what I need or want. I really try to rise above my animal instincts and genetic shortcomings and work at being “awake” so as to become as good a person as humanly possible.  A high aspiration…if we could all be so composed. Enter, the eyes, wide and alert on the right upper area of the mask. Specific text on the left, examinador, a play of words, they connect to what he says, and they connect to how I see a doctor.  You know…one who examines…a patient. 

If there is any truth to Quantum entanglement, then a physician who considers the various aspects of himself appeals to me.  Health is after all a combination of body, mind and spirit. 
Some days I believe in Mankind other days I don’t. Bless the days when he does. I don’t necessarily believe I am what I think, do or look like. I guess I am ethereal or always in a state of flux somewhat like our crazy universe. This sentence colors the right side of the face, I think of actual flux. I am becoming increasingly more cognisant of how short our stay on this planet is. So much to do and so little time as they say.




The masks I design are story telling objects… 3 dimensional portraits. In art, 2 dimensional work has to do with creating illusion.  3 dimensional work is actual object. There is a front and back (top, bottom, sides). The viewer can move around it.  

In this particular case, because Greg appears to have a strong internal life, the inside of the mask is as important as the outside. 
He has a collection of Mimbres pottery. Pottery holds spirit. The interior design is a black and white labyrinth image, borrowed from one of the actual pieces in his collection.

He closes by saying Good luck finishing my mask!  Clear and solid directing thought (and perhaps a little bit of luck) inform and materialize this work.

Muy bien,  Gregorio.