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Delta Night Mask - Homage à Kelly Clarke
fiberglass,steel, sculpture, fiber optics, drawing, window, mask, helmet, headgear, disguise, protection, illusion,magic,lake, night, trees, symbolic, Kelly Clark, ceremony, landscape, Manitoba, window to the soul, constellations, shaman, cultures, found materials, high technology, Pop art influenced, industrial, futuristic, silver point
description

In Proch’s earlier works he built full-sized men on motorcycles and drew prairie scenes on their helmets, but as his work evolved, Proch dropped the bodies and discovered that the head/mask could successfully stand alone. Adele Freedman explained the significance of the  maskA face covering. Usually it is something worn on the face, with openings for the eyes, to conceal one's identity, either for partying (as at a masquerade ball), to frighten or amuse (as at Halloween), for ritual, or for performance (as by dancers, or by actors in Greek, Roman, and Japanese theater.) It may be worn principally to protect the face (as a gas mask, or a hockey mask, or a physician's mask, etc.) It may also be any two- or three-dimensional representation of a face — as in the covering of an Egyptian mummy's face depicting the face of the deceased. A mask can be a mold of a person's face — a death mask if made after death, a life mask if made before it. Or, it may refer to an opaque edge or area placed between an image and a photosensitive surface to prevent its exposure to certain portions of the image. An example of this is a frisket. (Artlex.com)  this way: “The mask connotes mind, the mask connotes seeing.” (Freedman, 1977)  And Anne Suche wrote in 1984, “[The] Masks of Winnipeg artist Don Proch are unique, dramatic and unforgettable.” (Suche, 1984) Today, twenty-four years later, Proch is still producing his remarkable masks and drawings in his Winnipeg studio.

The mask/helmet can also protect and disguise, but above all, it connotes a magic that Proch uses to his advantage. His masks evoke an essence or spirit like those seen and used in many cultures and ceremonies. Writer Sherry Killam says of Proch‘s work, “While the masks resemble the ritualistic devices of the shaman, they are also aggressively pop, mixing natural and man-made materials in unusual ways.” (Killam, 1991)

To make the exterior of Delta Night Mask - Homage à Kelly Clarke, Proch covered a motorcycle helmet with fiberglass and sanded it to a smooth industrial finish. Then the three-dimensional  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  was decorated with beautifully drawn  graphiteA soft black mineral substance, a form of carbon, available in powder, stick, and other forms. It has a metallic luster and a greasy feel. Compressed with fine clay, it is used in lead pencils (though contemporary lead pencils contain no lead), lubricants, paints, and coatings, among other products. Also called black lead and plumbago. (artlex.com)  and silver point images of the prairie landscape.

Delta Night Mask - Homage à Kelly Clarke is named after Delta Beach on Lake Manitoba. The image on the outside of the form depicts the pitch-black landscape looking out on the lake at night. The interior view depicts the same night scene, but it is observed through a window from the cottage interior. It acts like a window to the soul as the viewer must get up close and thrust his or her head into the helmet opening to see the inner images of the moon and the stars, and their reflections on the water.  Each star within the form has an individual fibre optic cable. The Big Dipper and Little Dipper are located where they appeared in the night sky that summer in 1984.

start quoteI use alot of high-tech stuff in my work because I want people to think about rural imagery fitting together with high-tech elements.end quote-- Don Proch (Robert Enright)

Proch creates a tension and originality in his work by taking risks and combining opposites that would not normally be placed together. As he stated in an interview with Sherry Killam, “I like to put very basic, sometimes  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  materials next to high tech. Some of my more recent pieces are crosscuts of animal bone inlaid with black fibreglass. I use birch bark and neon.”(Killam, 1991)

Proch paid tribute to a fellow artist and friend when he included in his title ‘Homage a Kelly Clarke’. Kelly Clarke studied with Oscar Kokoschka (a European artist famous in 1940s and 1950s) and was an excellent draftsman. Proch shared a studio with Kelly Clarke and learned a lot from him before Clarke’s untimely death in 1995.

A companion piece to the work shown here - titled Night Landing Mask - is in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection. The exterior  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  is of a night  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)  with city lights in the background. The interior view reveals images of taxiing into an airport at night with purple runway lights going off into the distance and stars in the sky. The portal you look through, instead of a cottage window, is an airplane cockpit window.

Although the masks are sprayed with lacquer, the security guards who protect gallery artworks from damage are often upset when viewers engage with Proch’s sculptures, seeking a glimpse into the interior workings of the landscape adorned head-like form.

Adele Freedman aptly describes Proch’s work: “The masks’ seamless fusion of the human and natural makes them magic. Their affinity with space masks suggests their identity of inner space and outer space, the log cabin and the space cabin, the prairies and the galaxies” (Freedman, 1977)

additional resources Things to Think About
  • How does Proch combine the primitive and the futuristic?
  • Does Proch make a statement about man’s relationship with the land? Is there a spiritual connection?
  • Could Proch be making an anti-industrial statement with Delta Night Mask - Homage à Kelly Clarke?
  • How does the idea of a helmet/protective covering enter into the interpretation of the work?
  • Could there be a reference in his work to conflicts between rural and urban? The simple life versus the speed and action of the city?
  • Could you classify this work as pop art?
  • Proch’s heritage is Ukrainian. The Pysanky or Ukrainian Easter egg is a strong part of his culture. Can you see connections between the Delta Night Mask and the Ukrainian Easter egg?  To learn more about Ukrainian Easter eggs, go to:
Online Activity
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Weird photoGuess what is inside

 

Studio Activity

Design helmets or masks

In  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (Artlex.com)  culture many different kinds of specially designed helmets and masks are worn by sports and cycle enthusiasts. Often they are unique, and made for the individual and, while they provide protective covering, they also say something about the people who wear them.

Adelle Freedman gives further insights into the ideas behind specially designed headgear when she states, ”[But] masks have so many connotations. Alienation. Disguise. Identity. The African idea of the mask as residence of spirits.  Not to mention the masks worn by contemporary man to divide him from his environment: the miner’s mask, the motorcyclist’s, the goalie’s.  The mask demands that you confront it and respond.” (Freedmen, 1977)

  • Do you think masks are usually associated with the male gender?  If so, why do you think that may be the case?

 

Ukranian Easter egg - Pysanky

Ukrainian Easter Egg

Colin MacDonald writes, ”A great distance in  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  and time separates the traditional Ukrainian decorated egg and Proch’s space-age masks, but with his space-age masks Proch transforms the rigid old  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  of the decorated egg belonging to a simple world of the ancestral past and transports it into the brave new world of modern complexity” (MacDonald, 1982)

  • Learn more about the techniques and symbols used in creating Pysanky or Easter eggs at:

 

Interior/exterior

  • Make an art work where interior and exterior are joined into one. Look at other artists presented on the ARTSask website, for example Ann Harbuz (Place), Jeremy Smith (Interior Places), Brian Gladwell (Craft Redefined) Joanne Bristol (Technobabble).

 

Blind  contourThe outline and other visible edges of a mass, figure or object. (Artlex.com)  drawing

Oskar Kokoschka was a great artist,  draftsmanA person who creates sketches and plans of buildings, machinery, and manufactured products. Most contemporary drafting is done digitally, using computers, but for generations, draftsmen drew upon drafting tables, using such analog tools as rulers, T square, triangles, compasses, and French curves. (Artlex.com)  and teacher, who taught Kelly Clarke and influenced Proch.  He is quoted in Wikipedia as saying there is a, “…need to develop the art of seeing” (Wikipedia, 2008) For more information on Kokoschka go to: Wikipedia and Spartacus.

Learning to see takes time and practice and one of the best ways to cultivate this is to practise using  blind contourAn exercise in drawing and observation where the artist carefully observes the outline edges of the object with little concern for the finished product.  "The student, fixing their eyes on the outline of the model or object, draws the contour very slowly in a steady, continuous line without lifting the pencil or looking at the paper. The student may look at the paper to place an internal feature, but once they begin to draw it, they do not glance down, but follows the same procedure as for the outline. A well-done blind contour drawing frequently has sufficient quality and character to be preserved as a work of art." (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_contour_drawing)  drawing.

  • Nothing can be erased or changed as the artists are totally concentrating on the image in front of them.
  • The final drawing may not be realistic but the observation of detail is readily apparent.
  • The main purpose of this exercise is to learn to look/observe and not to rely on what you think is there.
  • Try using this method for a number of drawings of objects or still-life.

 

What’s inside?

For Proch’s masks, what he designs on the outside relates to what is inside the form. Find some solid boxes, take them apart carefully at the seams and put them back together, inside out. This will create a perfect mark-free clean  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  upon which to paint.

References

Freedman, Adelle.  ‘The Magic Masks of Asessippi: Don Proch is the Shaman of Prairie art.’  Saturday Night, Jan/Feb 1977.

Killam, Sherry.  ‘Don Proch.’  Western Living, August, 1991.

MacDonald, Colin.  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists : Volume 6.  Ottawa, Ontario:  Canadian Paperbacks Publishing, Inc., 1982.

Suche, Anne.  ‘Don Proch.’  Western Living, September, 1984.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning