Newspaper Story

Caring has many faces
Masquerade ball, mask auction to benefit Maryhurst and its kids

"Hope," a mask made by C.J. Fletcher, is the benefit's logo.
Photo by Sam Upshaw Jr.
Greek actors wore them in classical plays.

The Aztecs made them powerful totems, with goat horns, feathers and stone.

Ancient Egyptians put them on the faces of the dead.

From time immemorial, masks have held magical possibilities of renewal and transformation, and now they're inspiring a Louisville charity event called "Mask Unveiling: Faces of Hope."

More than 60 masks made by area artists, educators, media personalities and business executives will be auctioned at a masquerade ball Feb. 24 to benefit Maryhurst, a residential treatment facility for troubled children and their families.

"They're fabulous in their artistry and diversity," said Karyl Faulkner, Maryhurst's vice president of development and public relations, who conceived the project.

"A lot of them aren't made to be worn," she said. "There are sculptures and wall hangings. Some are on pedestals. We have masks made of wood, made of clay, of copper wire and tin wire."

Stuart N. Ray made his out of steel. "I didn't think anybody else would use that raw material," said Ray, who is vice president of Steel Technologies, a Louisville manufacturer whose engineering division implemented his design.

  Want a peek?
The masks that will be auctioned to benefit Maryhurst will be displayed from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the lobby of the Brown & Williamson Tower, 401 S. Fourth St. They then will tour area galleries and shopping malls before being auctioned Feb. 24 at the seventh annual Maryhurst Masquerade.

The masquerade -- a dinner, dance and auction -- will be held at the Hyatt Regency Louisville, 320 W. Jefferson St., beginning at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $100; a table for eight costs $800.

For more information, call 245-1576.

"It was meant to be a cross between 'The Man in the Iron Mask' and Hannibal Lecter, when he was being hauled out in the movie. But the end result looks like a Martian," Ray said. "You know the old 'Superman' TV show? One episode, Martians had invaded Earth, and it looks like one of those Martians."

WHAS radio personality Terry Meiners gives most of the credit to his wife, Andrea, for their 24-by-36-inch collage of celebrity photos and glaring tabloid headlines, with two colored masks starkly mounted.

"It's a stretch for me to do art," Meiners said. "Andrea can look at a barren wasteland and immediately re-create it as nirvana. So when I agreed to do the masks, and saw (sculptor) Ed Hamilton's name on the lists, I said, 'Honey, we're running with the big dogs!'

"The tabloid part was my contribution. That's my life. I have to chew up celebrity news and spit it back out every day. I commit that stuff to memory."

Louisville painter C. J. Fletcher made her mask as large as a human torso and sprouting drums, trumpets, violins and saxophones like so much hair. It is 20 pounds of foamboard, papier-mâché, wires and acrylic paint, with the title "Music on My Mind."

"I'm always using some type of musical instrument in my paintings," said Fletcher, whose series of 21 paintings called "Color of Music" presents a diverse mosaic of musical instruments and human faces.

"Music is art too," she said, "so it's all kind of relative. But when you think of a mask, you think of unveiling something behind it, whether it's spiritual, fun. Something that's hidden."

WHAS radio personality Terry Meiners and his wife, Andrea, show off their masks, which are part of the Maryhurst exhibit and benefit.
Photo by Bill Luster
Faulkner said she intended the mask making to be cathartic, and advised her participants to let their imaginations run wild. "The actual process, making a mask that represents you, is personal," she said. "Everyone wears masks. You go to some places and wear a different face. Unveiling, or taking it off, makes us vulnerable. But experiencing that change gives us hope, which is what our project is all about."

Art students from Manual High School took up the challenge too, eager to help a worthy cause. "They didn't get any class credit," teacher Corie Neumayer said, "and I didn't supply any of the material because I wanted them to find things that appealed to them, things they had to search out and struck them as good for the mask."

Neumayer said her daughter, Caroline, a junior at the Cincinnati Art Academy and a Manual alumni, made her mask out of pull tabs from soft-drink cans. "She had a whole collection that she started saving when she was a little kid," Neumayer said. "She sewed rows and rows of them together, covering up everything but the nose, mouth and eyes. All these years she'd had them in her room."

Neumayer's mask is white, covered with tiny black and white spiders entangled in thick white netting, with a big black widow climbing up from the back.

"The idea behind it is that sometimes we will concentrate on little problems in front of us, and bigger problems might be behind us that we're not aware of," she said.

C.J. Fletcher holds "Music on My Mind," another mask she made for the auction.
Photo by Sam Upshaw Jr.
Every mask submitted has a uniquely compelling message.

Meiners said, "Ours showed the silliness of a star-saturated society. People are consumed with celebrity news, inundated with it. We know more things about movie stars than we do about our own first cousins. I know more about Jesse Jackson than about the people across the street. We put masks in the middle of all that tabloid scandal to represent two faces looking away. It's good advice for anybody living in our society: Look beyond that."

The meaning behind Ray's mask is as blunt as the material he made it from: "Steel isn't a pretty business," he said, "and I think our mask reflects that."

Said Fletcher, "I did it to volunteer my service. I can't give monetarily to charities as much as I'd like. But I can volunteer my art. It's my way of giving back."