Let Us Have a Story – Mask
EXHIBITION:Alaska: Far Away, Up Close
This mask features a number of non-traditional objects that are hallmarks of Kathleen Carlo’s style: bullet casings, Mexican milagros charms, and automobile inspection mirrors. Each of these elements is significant: the halo of mirrors is a tribute to the passing of fellow mask-maker Lawrence Beck (Yup’ik) who taught Carlo at a seminal two week workshop at the Institute of Alaska Native Arts and helped her on the path to her career. The milagros charms in the mask’s mouth are traditional Mexican prayer charms: a parishioner would buy one in the form of a trouble or ill in their lives and take it to church with them. For Carlo, her masks speak of these troubles and ills, perhaps solving them through prayer, story or song. The addition of bullet casings–or buttit shells–signifies the importance of hunting for Carlo and many natives in Alaska. Raised on a subsistence diet of gathered and hunted foods–such as salmon, berries and moose meat–Carlo adds the shells to connote the human element in the more spiritual world of the mask.
The title of this piece, “Let Us Have a Story” is taken from a passage in the diary of Father Jules Jette, a late 19th century priest who first codified the Koyukon dialect into a dictionary. One evening Jette and a number of Native men were at his cabin telling stories to each other. As the end of each story drew near the Koyukon men built up their excitement and would shout “Ani!”–an expression of surprise and enthusiasm–and would call out, “Let’s have another story, let us have a story!” Reading this passage, Carlo was inspired by this historic, peaceable scene, and created this mask to commemorate it.