Making Masks, Considering Costumes
Mar 20, 2013

Students work at desk

Youth Insights Artists design, cut, and sew costumes in the Whitney Studio for a project they are working on with Artist-in-Residence Dave McKenzie, March 2013. Photograph by Correna Cohen

On March 20, Youth Insights Artists were in the studio putting the finishing touches on the costume project we have been doing with Artist-in-Residence Dave McKenzie. The idea behind the project is for us to express a deeper side of ourselves. The costume, which has to include a mask, needs to portray an aspect of our character. It might show that you are outgoing or timid, represent a sport or type of music that you like, or display a message you want to send about your views on the world. We had a lot of freedom of how to create our mask and complete costume, and we ended up with a range, from basic to quite intricate. After spending the beginning of the session designing, sewing, and hot gluing, we presented our finished projects to the group.

  • An artist teaches a student how to create a mask out materials.

    Dave McKenzie discusses mask-making techniques with Saul. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • Two students work on their masks at a table.

    Anna and Daecery in deep costume-concentration. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • An artist helps put a mask on another artist.

    YI Artists Lisa and Anna help each other into their costume components. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • A close up of text cut out of blue material.

    Big questions can arise during a project like this. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • Teens cut out materials on a table to make masks.

    Youth Insights teens dive into a variety of materials and techniques as they created their costumed-selves. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • A student explains the thinking behind his mask.

    Minul shares his thoughts on his costume components: a medical mask and a protective hoodie he's owned for years. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • A student shows off her mask that uses a bag to cover her head.

    Annie models her mask. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • A student wears his mask that uses string to cover his eyes.

    Carlo's costume incorporates a vest, a hat, and some creatively fringed eyewear. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • A student wears his costume that represents the Whitney Museum.

    Devan's costume represents his love of music. The stripes on his jacket are the names of his favorite bands. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • A student models a mask with feathers while the group looks on.

    Zeus acts as a volunteer model for Lucie's mask, with Dave McKenzie nearby for feedback! Photograph by Correna Cohen

We all put our masks and costumes on and explained their message. Simon's costume was a white T-shirt with a big pocket, which he designed and sewed himself out of an old dropcloth. It was simple, but it had both elegance and a practical purpose. Lucy's costume was a feathery dance outfit, which represented herself as a dancer, colorful and outgoing. Zeus brought in a picture of himself in Muay Thai gear, with a white mask, ready for a fight. Lisa dressed up as a 1950s housewife with a brick wall design painted on her mask. She explained to us that her costume was intended to show how women of that era weren't seen as anything more human than that—a wall. My costume was a mask with a fire painted on it, and it incorporated the head of a stuffed bunny, representing how even the most innocent things have a dangerous dark side. Other people are still left to present, but so far, all the costumes have been well-designed, and the messages they portray about their makers are interesting and unique.

By Anna, Youth Insights Artist