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New Exhibition at MOIFA Offers Timely Perspective on Masks and Face Coverings

April 29th, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has shocked and consumed our world, and masks are now part of our daily attire. Historically, masks have been used for ritual, ceremony, disguise, markers of social hierarchy, community identity, and protection. On May 30, 2021, the Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) will open “#Mask: Creative Responses to the Global Pandemic,” an exhibition that focuses on masks and face coverings. 

Face coverings as protective devices emerged in European society between 1347 and 1351   during the rise of the Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic. From 1918–1920, the world relied on face coverings again as protection during the Spanish Flu. Although masks are not new, their joint use as protective and expressive devices has never before been seen on such a large scale. 

More than a personal protective device that keeps us and others safe, face masks have become a creative outlet for many. In this recent pandemic, masks represent self-expression, politics, fashion, and humanity’s hope and care for one another. This exhibition is an ode to the mask, and to the artists and everyday citizens forging their way through the COVID-19 crisis. 

#Mask is co-curated by MOIFA’s curatorial team. Nicolasa Chávez (Curator of Latino, Hispano, & Spanish Colonial Collections) notes: “This exhibition is a fabulous showcase of the endurance of the human spirit. It not only shows the wide expanse of creativity from around the globe but also the human will to survive, to create beauty, and to share a sense of hope and purpose during a time of crisis. It also demonstrates the human desire to use creative methods to help others in times of need.” 

 With approximately 30 face masks on display, the exhibition contains examples from around the world, such as Iceland, Canada’s First Nations, Indonesia, Turkey, South Sudan, Pakistan, and the United States, including masks by local artists Gasali Adeyemo and Lisa Trujillo. The exhibit also includes an altar and sculpture by local artist Arthur Lopez, textile panels, prints, and paintings that depict face masks and issues related to the pandemic.

There will also be two slide shows.  One is a selection of masks entered into the Office of the Governor’s Mask Madness challenge, and the other features masks by Native American artists, organized by America Meredith.


About the Museum of International Folk Art
The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Board of Regents for the Museum of New Mexico. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the International Folk Art Foundation and Museum of New Mexico Foundation.  The mission of The Museum of International Folk Art is to shape a humane world by connecting people through creative expression and artistic traditions. The museum holds the largest collection of international folk art in the world, numbering more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries.


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