The series titled Encumbrance is a series of zinc plate etchings created over the span of four years. Each image manifests a contemporary interpretation of a tronie (an image of a head, face, or expression, but not a formal portrait), where my sitter wears a plague doctor mask, or rather my exaggerated and distorted version of the historical mask. The mask, as a consistent image throughout, is intended as both a direct metaphor for the ignorance that burdens humanity despite the era or advances in technology in addition to how humanity is destined to wear this mask as a penance for tradition and circumstance. The actual mask (and the rest of the costume) used by the doctors during plague outbreaks was for protection from what was thought to be a miasmatic disease (airborne or from bad air). Survival depended on the knowledge available during this harrowing time and now we know that the intended protection was futile. The prints also mirror how in life we depend on masks of ignorance to perform, as in theatre, specifically Commedia dell’arte. The character roles, types and themes found in Commedia dell’arte depend on physical masks to perform parodic scenarios to bring about awareness of political, economical or social crisis, but all the while, the performer hides his true identity and individual voice, strapped by the weight of tradition linked to what the mask represents.
In life we are plagued by ignorance when it comes to love, jealousy, finances, relationships, status, beliefs, politics, habits and death, yet, in some ways, we use this taxing obliviousness to protect ourselves.