Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Guest Blogger: Zoe on gas mask art.

Screamers and Screamettes, I've asked blogger Zoe Blue, surrealism guru and art fancier, to curate this month's gas mask display. Enjoy.

Gas masks in Art

A disoriented
condition with
clouded consciousness,
often accompanied
by hallucinations,
of events and
a generally confused
quality with reduced capacity to
sustain attention.
(from Victor Koen's Funny Farm alphabet)

From gas masks

"Delirium," by Victor Koen

"The obsession with the "perfect baby" and children who would be progressively more intelligent and fit than the last generation, is an ancient one. Today through genetic technologies, social engineering and developmental psychology we believe we control previously inaccessible natural workings that strongly influence the way children are born, learn and grow...From extreme authoritarian rhetoric to schooling systems of total autonomy. The revolution in reproductive science has come to add yet another dimension to the issue, and blurred the borders between fact and fiction. 'Tasks & Games, portraits of the never young' is a series of 24 portraits, depicting children caught in the middle of the pursuit of perfection before and after their birth....Dramatically lit and staged in traditional photography studio settings, in front of bizarre backdrops or locations that some times overtake their little bodies, or what's left of them, the children are posed with their favorite toys or objects, in their Sunday best. A closer look will reveal signs of severe pain. We get to observe visual renditions of the nightmares they live in, and through them, maybe we face some of our own. They have obviously taken their toll on the kids even if most of them are smiling or smirking. ...The majority of the raw photographic materials originate from the early nineteen hundreds. The children are ...are fused with contemporary objects and environments that seem to consume them. The images are titled after traditional tasks and games. A sharp juxtaposition between the pure nature of old fashioned children activities with scientific methods and their results."

From gas masks

This one is called "Dusting." Victor Koen

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"Vanity Study #39" Victor Koen

Another Fine Artist who has some exceptionally creepy images of gas masks is Chris Anthony. He is most famous for his award-winning 2007 series of photographs entitled "Victims and Avengers," which caught women and children at the moment of violently overcoming their abusers. A more recent series, called Venice is, as he describes it, "a metaphor for a sinking city, deserving of nature's wrath, leaving its citizens to tread water and explore new ways to sustain life on aquatic earth." In keeping with his apparent leaning towards--or at least readiness for--apocalyptic moments of reckoning and punishment:

From chris anthony

by Chris Anthony

From chris anthony

by Chris Anthony

I think these are also gas masks, though I'm not an expert...
From gas masks

by Chris Anthony

Fred Einaudi also seems to enjoy apocalyptic themes. He likes to place images of innocence together with images of death and dissolution, and gas masks help express his ideas quite clearly:

From gas masks

"The Button Maker" Fred Einaudi

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"Chocolate Donut" Fred Einaudi

Chet Zar has tons of them in his paintings, often with the mask merging into actual flesh, as in an evolutionary mutation. Here's Clown of Doom, and Uncle Sam, and It's All Good:

From gas masks

From gas masks

From gas masks

Moving into more political territory, we have street graffiti artists. A minor amount of wandering on the web gave me all kinds of commentary on why gas masks are so popular in this art form: graffiti artists often have to be very quick, so rapidly understood symbolism is a must, and the gas mask is easily seen as representative of government oppression (riot police-- so also as a symbol of preparedness for engagement with them), the effects of social violence but also environmental violence, and general dehumanization (facelessness). Greg Nog says, "It's a perfect symbol for anyone fearing the impending decay of civilization." A comment which would also fit nicely next to the Chris Anthony photos or the Fred Einaudi paintings.

From gas masks

Cellist with gas mask: a photo by smiling bag production from stenciled graffiti in Tel Aviv. There's a whole series here: .

From gas masks


Here, Nicole Dolly made her own, gothic, version of a gas mask, I assume for clubbing (or maybe just so when the day comes, you can maintain your style):
From gas masks

And onward into full-blown sculpture, here is "Dystopian Art by Yanobe Kenji: Mickey the Knight:"

From gas masks

This was actually a commissioned work, commissioned for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration in 2005. Strangely, they didn't actually end up displaying it. Yanobe Kenji has several other sort of terrifying child-centered sculptures which use gas masks. You can see his work here:
Apparently, though, he actually got the idea for this sculpture by reading his history books. According to a gasmasklexikon article written by Major Robert D. Walk:

"The Mickey Mouse Gas Mask was produced as part of the war production program. The Sun Rubber Company produced approximately 1,000 Mickey Mouse gas masks and earned an Army-Navy ‘E’ for excellence in wartime production in 1944. Overall, production of the Noncombatant Gas Masks (and in fact, all gas masks) was one of the most successful production programs of the war. In fact, production had to be curtailed early due to the vast quantity produced."
More on this creepiness is available here:

From gas masks

In case the mask itself isn't enough for you, I'll leave you with this extended version:
From gas masks

Sweet dreams!


Zoe's own mind-warpingly beautiful blog, Zoe in Wonderland is worth checking out. Go forth and dig hard, my friends.


Sasquatchan said...

the "romantic" shot is oddly, hmm, not erotic, but stirs me. The nuzzle with a gas mask. It's touching, sensual.. (Granted, I won't be going out to G.I. Joes surplus to don masks tonight -- doesn't turn me on, but stirs me..)

Quite a few other of those pictures closely remind me of some H. R. Giger type work..

The mickey mouse one though, for plain old-school bizarre, wins.. I wonder how many of the bat-shit crazy disney memorabilia collectors have those ? (since by definition, a disney memorabilia collector is bat-shit crazy..)

wiec? said...

awesome collection. the Uncle Sam one is my favorite.

also i just read that this month is the 70th year anniversary of Wesley Dodds 1st appearance in comics. he debuted in Adventure Comics #40 which came out in July 1939. so nice tribute.

zoe said...

i think i might run from any house that had those mickey mouse masks in it. it's too much for my sensitivities...

CRwM said...

What a perfect, if unintentional, tribute to my favorite character from the cape and cowl set: Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman.

Bravo to Zoe Blue for pulling this together.

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