The Gascoine Gallery presents two exhibitions beginning: nine large paintings by Abby Shahn from her series “Faces” and a collection of masks from around the world, both of which run through August through Oct. 30.
Abby Shahn is widely known for her rich paintings with dynamic constructions and vibrant colors that appear to jump off the surface of her works. This exhibition comprises nine of her iconic paintings, which she calls “Faces.” At first glance, one is struck by the energy in the strokes laid down by this master’s hand. Only after some consideration do the faces reveal themselves: an eyelid, the curl of a lip, an ear. More personalities than portraits, each painting introduces a unique character. Someone we know? Or someone, like us, caught up in the complexities of living? Shahn’s collision of abstract construction and selected depiction hides nothing. In these faces, we can identify ourselves, our despondency, our joys, and our hopes.
“Masks Around the World” is an exhibition conceived before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we are all wearing masks. The 34 masks in this show come from six continents and span 100 years. These masks were created for reasons other than protection from an insidious virus. They were created for carnivals, theatrical performances, coming-of-age ceremonies and reenactments of past events. Some were used to express emotion, some were made for the love of making, and some for sports. What they all have in common is that each mask modifies the face, disguising the wearer. They take us to another place, a place where reality fades and fantasy rules.
Installed on opposite walls, these two exhibitions expose the many ways we see ourselves. Shahn’s faces reveal the depth of us; the masks hide us in shadow.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The gallery is at 16 Greenville Road, Second Floor, above Monson Pottery in Monson.