A Reclamation of Hope (Print C)

A Reclamation of Hope (Print C)

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Photographic documentation of the original work, "A Reclamation of Hope". Created and modeled by Mackenzie. Roth and photographed by Leia Guo. Photographic print on crystal archive paper. 

8 x 12 inches, frame not included. Work is signed.

Artist Statement:

            It is only natural to be fearful of that which we cannot control, and this fear only grows greater as our understanding of powerlessness our increases. The developments made to our knowledge of disease and immunology are indisputably invaluable, however they can leave little to be hopeful about. Especially as of late, news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone feel disheartened at one point. However, I believe the wearing of face coverings should not be one of these such depressing developments. I wish to reclaim the symbol of the plague mask as a symbol of hope and protection, rather than fear. 

Prior to the development of more medicinal knowledge, man’s only perceptible protection against disease was religion. Many cultures predating the early 18th century utilized masks depicting spiritual deities, demons, and spirits symbolic of disease or health to ward off and protect the wearer and those around them from illness. These masks became a symbol of hope for health, protection, and restoration of societal balance for both the wearers and the viewers. However, as societies advanced, so did our understanding of the world – specifically disease. In 1619 one of the most recognizable protective masks was invented by Charles de l’Orme, the physician of Louis XIV. With new medicinal understandings flooding through Europe, the iconic plague mask was created – its long beak holding incense and herbs to cleanse the air of miasma. From this point forward, there was a shift in the perception of masks, from a hopeful symbol calling for protection from spiritual deities to a covering that protects from harmful earthly substances – ones that seem as though they are not within the control of the majority, as they rely on scientific intervention over visually symbolic items and cure-alls. With this brought great fear of the plague mask symbol. Even now, this fear cannot be understated. Although our scientific knowledge has advanced, and our masks are more effective than during the 1600s, there is still a perception of the wearing of masks and protective face coverings as a means for fear. While pandemic is frightening, I believe there is something to be said for masks predating medicinal knowledge as they brought hope and comfort. While effective protection is important in a mask, I believe there should be a reclamation of the mask as a symbol of hope. It is an active sign of a fight against disease and a brining together of people, religions, and cultures for the battle for international health. The mask is protection, the mask is beautiful, the mask is inspiring hope.