Saving the Nearly Lost Art of Mask-Making

Diego Marcial Rios Blue Mayan mask

In 2007, I started to research how traditional Mexican masks and other larger 3-D art forms were created.  Images of Mexican paper maché Calavera masks can be seen on everything from low riders to tattoos.  The images are now an important part of North American visual consciousness.

While conducting my research, I noticed that many Mexican masks and larger public sculptures were created by using paper maché.  The paper maché art media had existed in north America since the early 1500’s.  The paper maché art media has flourished in Mexico and other South American countries.

I also noticed that the paper maché art media is nearly completely forgotten by most professional artist in the current art American and European art scene.  When thinking about Mexican art and even Chicano art curators and the mass media only think about the artists of the Mexican muralist movement of the 1930’s.

Sadly the art of many Mexican paper maché artist such as Lineres and countless other artists remained under-exposed or even ignored by the current American and European art establishment.  While viewing more Mexican paper maché art, it becomes clear that this media is as elegant or as powerful as any other art media.

Currently the art fine schools, colleges, and universities do not teach paper maché art.  Art galleries, art centers or museums seldom promote or show paper maché art.  It is currently only taught in some elementary school arts and crafts classes by non-artists.

The paper maché media has great historical and cultural importance.   This unique art media is not given proper attention or respect by art schools, artists, or art critics.  It is important to keep this powerful and beautiful art form alive before it becomes a dead art form. Its dynamic visual power should endure with our imaginations.