Houston Center for Contemporary Craft | November 17, 2017 - January 21, 2018 | Photography by Scott Cartwright
Head Gear features three artists who use masks and portraiture to perform, interrogate, and subvert constructed identities. Inspired by the historical uses of armor and veils, Kate Clements, Arielle DePinto, and Matt Lambert explore the implications of concealing and revealing oneself through ornament. Through a combination of objects and accompanying studio portraits, the artists experiment with classic archetypes like beauty queens, brides, widows, athletes, and soldiers to create entirely new and complex identities.
Kate Clements’ crystalline glass headdresses reveal the fragility in the construction of idealized feminine identity. Merging the preciousness of kiln-fired glass with cultural signifiers, such as bridal and widow’s veils, beauty queen tiaras, and royal crowns, she addresses the ways in which these objects transform identity and perform an idealized femininity that is ultimately fabricated and unattainable. Arielle de Pinto, meanwhile, explores a darker vein of feminine identity through expressive, crocheted chain masks, which unite material luxury with grotesque bodily forms. Reminiscent of chainmail armor, her gold vermeil and silver pieces drape and sag across the wearer’s face in a way that is equally monstrous and luxurious.By using a visual vernacular of male sport, trophy, armor, and fetish to create his masks, Matt Lambert investigates masculinity, as well as queer and non-binary identities. The artist combines large-scale portraiture and performance with masks, ranging aesthetically from intricate fringed veils and metal headpieces that resemble protective fencing gear to leather masks with antlers that evoke hunting trophies.
As one of the most transformative objects in material culture, a mask can protect, conceal, empower, and free its wearer. Masks are duplicitous—they hide one face and reveal another, they horrify and beguile, they disrupt and reconstruct. They bring layered, hybrid figures to life. As the artists in Head Gear subvert existing social constructs, they also offer more nuanced possibilities and ways in which to perceive, perform, and navigate identity.