Student’s walking into the current exhibit at Rankin Art Gallery—Demon Masks and Timelines by James MaloneBeach-—found themselves a little spooked. The artist, a retired Big Rapids High School art teacher, used a timeline of uniform masks, plastered with various memorabilia of past events in world history and his own life. But despite the eerie appearance, the art was not without appreciation of student viewers.
FSU freshman in graphic design Kevin Maenle agreed that the masks were somewhat morbid.
“I find it a little creepy because the frame the masks are in kind of look like the thorns on Jesus when he was hung on the cross,” Maenle said.
One of the masks, called “US Legalizes Torture,” varies from the other masks in form. Instead of both eyes being closed as they are in all the others, one eye of the mask is open. FSU freshman in graphic design Melanie Melcher had her own complex interpretation for this particular mask. She used the change of formation and date on the mask—June 24, 2004—to make her interpretation.
“I probably like the most the fact that the masks themselves didn’t change. The one that did change—US legalizes torture—was appropriate. The way I took it is I remember there was one point where the U.S. was ok with torturing people to get information,” Melcher said.
Melcher’s hunch was right. On June 24, 2004, President Bush made a statement denying the torture of captured prisoners in Guantanamo, despite various proof that this occurred. These prisoners were designated as “unlawful enemy combatants” and suspected as al Quaeda members. Though not considered P.O.W.s, Bush still ordered they were to be treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions. Two days later, Bush made a statement confirming commitment to worldwide elimination of torture on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
“The mask changing represents how we stay the same the way we believed and at that one point in history we change. To me, the eye opening is our country looking at our government saying “I don’t know if that’s ok and if that’s where we want to go,” Melcher said.
Despite the deep interpretation of some of the masks, other students found a lighter appreciation.
“I think that all these are a little creepy, but that makes me think that this one is even funnier, “ Derek Brouwer, FSU freshman in graphic design, said. Brouwer was referring to another component of the exhibit—a collection of little ceramic barges. His particular favorite was called “Meals on Wheels,” a little bowl on wheels. “I think it’s a little humorous with all these masks around,” Brouwer said.
Tim Eldred, FSU senior in new media print publishing program, had his own interpretation about these little boats.
“The ships are like a funeral, like how they used to send the dead on ships into the water. And there’s coins on them like when you pay the ferry men in Greek mythology,” Eldred said.
Eldred finished his appreciation with a final interpretation of the masks and little boats.
“I think his message is time and when it ends, because he has different time lines. Things happen and so does death, so I’m thinking that he’s saying there’s a little time you have in life and then things happen and we all die,” Eldred said.