Behind the mask

MASK COLLAGE 3
Lilianne Milgrom  Collage 2020

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.

Lin Dong (2)

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.

maskreda

You can read more about Reda in this interview by CARAVAN as well an interview with yours truly here.

Stay safe!

Another of my articles on face masks can be found on Medium.com.

Praying that it’s over soon…

The world is going through a crisis, a global pandemic, an unprecedented assault by an unseen enemy. Call it what you will, COVID 19 is literally killing us while we’re waiting for our lauded scientists and medical professionals to get us out of this. In the meantime, we’re sitting at home reading, playing, working, singing, chatting, zooming, eating, drinking, crying, watching Netflix and praying that this will be over soon. Praying, the way I see it, is a personal and intimate dialogue with whatever form of Spiritual Other people find comfort in believing in. We’re all searching for ways to comfort ourselves and others during this difficult time and if prayer does the trick, why not?

These thoughts brought to mind an installation I created in 2014 entitled ‘Virtual Angel’.

virtual angel II

‘Virtual Angel’ was created specifically for an international traveling exhibition called AMEN. I was honored to have been selected by CARAVAN as one of 18 Western artists to join with 30 leading Egyptian artists in building bridges between faiths and cultures through Art. Each participating artist received a life-sized fiberglass figure in prayer with which to create a personal expression of prayer.

Close up back

I chose to transform my figure into an angel as angels appear in the sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well as in ancient manuscripts that predate those texts. These winged creatures straddle the celestial and earthly worlds acting as divine helpers, intermediaries, protectors, and emissaries.

But I wanted to find a way to actively engage the public and provide the viewer with an opportunity for personal prayer. By using a mobile phone to scan the QR code I emblazoned on the angel’s chest (below), viewers were able to send their personal prayers to the world with a click of a finger.

Virtual angel III

My Virtual Angel provided a means of bridging the spiritual world and the contemporary digital world. It seemed fitting that these digital prayers are sent to the cloud for safe keeping. I invite you now to scan the QR code and send your own prayers out into the world.

Angel QR

If you do not have a QR code scanner on your mobile phone and wish to send a digital prayer to the cloud, you can do so directly by clicking HERE where you can also read the anonymous prayers that have been sent out by others. And for what it’s worth, I’m sending my prayers out to one and all for a safe and healthy sheltering. Take care. 

Going viral

Covid 19
CDC’s illustrated image of COVID-19

Artists dream about their work going viral on Instagram or Youtube. If the corona virus COVID-19 weren’t so deadly serious, one could almost be jealous of the speed with which this organism – too small to be seen by the naked eye – ripped around the world, and in a matter of months became known to billions of people.

Soon everyone will be affected in one way or another. It has already impacted my own little universe – two upcoming exhibitions postponed and a decision to decline the offer of a new residency opportunity at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A recent article tapped artists as being more insulated from risk due to the solitary nature of art making. However, some of my artist friends have had to shutter their studios to the public, and art galleries have shut their doors. Art fairs have closed and museums have gone dark.  

But artists don’t stop being artists just because they can’t go anywhere, right? And it’s important to try to keep one’s sense of humor.

Covid nails

COVID ART
‘Mobile World Virus’ by TVBOY (**PLEASE NOTE THAT I MISTAKENLY CREDITED KEITH HARING (!) AS THE ARTIST IN MY INITIAL EMAIL ANNOUNCING THIS BLOG POST) 

I myself am keeping busy tinkering with a bag of air dry clay that has been sitting around the studio for at least two years. Air dry clay is not fired in a kiln and therefore is far more fragile and porous when dry than clay that goes through the firing and glazing process. But it is still malleable and is the perfect material for me to work on perfecting facial structure and expression.

Air Clay

For those of you going a bit stir crazy at home and in need of some art to get your minds off the terrifying graphs and numbers, here are some links to my favorite virtual tours of museums :

-The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has an exciting  virtual tour and you can literally get lost in the Louvre’s virtual tours even sitting on your couch.

More suggestions here.

Please, please, stay safe and hopefully we’ll come out the other end in one piece. Drop me a line and let me know the creative ways in which you are all passing the time at home.