For close to two decades, media immersion placed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan squarely in our sights. With the troop draw down beginning in 2010, media attention turned to the returning veterans. News of the shameful bureaucratic difficulties they encountered became more frequent, as were stories about the lasting emotional, psychological and social impact of war.
I felt compelled to portray these young men and women as the diverse individuals they are, deserving of our respect and recognition for their personal sacrifice, irrespective of our political views on the conflict. As the project began to take form, I discovered that their tattoos provided insight into their journeys, their personal experiences and their beliefs and I chose to expose their stories by translating them into a visible medium that would far outlast the individuals themselves: porcelain.
In the throes of the global pandemic, the mask has become far more than just a face covering. It has become the symbol of our times and a lightning rod for diametrically opposed political views. Different interest groups are playing tug of war with guidelines for wearing masks while behind the scenes PPE masks and the materials required to produce them have spurned a black market run by profiteering opportunists – or smart entrepreneurs, depending on which side of the geopolitical divide you’re on.
Which brings me to the unlikely subject of this month’s blog post: The world’s newest superhero, Maskman! Forget Superman – or Batman for that matter.Maskman is here!
This is no fictitious comic action figure, although this real-life ‘hero’–known to millions of giddy Chinese fans as the Mask Hunter–has all the makings of one: square jaw, tight fitting black turtle-neck, and a world view that is ruthless yet ethical in a self-serving sort of way. Meet 30-year-old businessman, Lin Dong from Guandong province.
As the saying goes, one man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune. And that’s the way Lin Dong sees it. While the world is succumbing to COVID-19, Lin jet sets around the world buying up as much of that superfine, super-expensive fabric that filters out virus-carrying particles. Welcome to the COVID world’s hottest commodity: melt-blown, nonwoven fabric. And don’t even try to unload that cheap spun substitute onto the Mask Hunter. Lin can smell a rip-off a mile away.It’s got to be melt-blown or nothing. His primary suppliers are sleazy arms dealers who have temporarily pivoted away from illegal arms to COVID-inhibiting shmattes because the profit margins are astronomical.
How did businessman Lin Dong become a Chinese superstar sensation? Here’s where art comes into it. Chinese video blogger Wu Dong stumbled upon our dashing hero carving out a deal in a hotel in Istanbul and immediately saw the film making potential. He cozied up to Lin Dong’s pretty sidekick and got the green light to tag along and film Lin Dong’s deal making.
The resulting eight-part series “Mask Hunter” was a blockbuster. Over one hundred million viewers and counting. Lin’s search for the rare fabric has made him millions but he stands to lose it all in a bad deal. His Chinese fans are rooting for him as if he were the Robin Hood of PPE, unlike those money-hungry American profiteers. KABAM!
On that note, I’ll sign off with a powerful and thought-provoking video about masks created during lock down by fellow artist, Reda Abdelrahman. Click HERE to watch.