Artistic opportunity evolves from AvantMask contest

"Aqua's Return," top, by Erica Patino and "Blue Plague" by Nancy Bindig are both showing at the AvantMask art exhibition at the Art Gallery of Viera located at The Avenue Viera.

Masks and facial coverings have become a necessary but fashionable part of life, providing a new option for artistic expression celebrated in the Art Gallery of Viera’s AvantMask competition ending Oct. 9.

Masks carry with them a mixed bag of emotions, some unpleasant, according to the AGOV website open call for submissions. 

"They can be looked at as hope, safety and also a reminder of the pain and suffering happening all around us," Adam Palumbo said. They can bring feelings of security and at times discomfort. AvantMask is an opportunity to share those very feelings."

AvantMask is not intended to create masks for actual safety or everyday use but to evolve the idea of a mask into a work of art.

The range of emotion related to masks was reflected in the variety of allowed mediums used for the AvantMasks, including adding accessories and using unique materials.

"Whether it's leather, silk, chains or fabric just make it exciting, thought provoking and wearable," Palumbo said. "Wood, twine, rope or any other material you can imagine can be used to produce your Avant-guard mask." 

AvantMask was not intended to create masks for actual safety or everyday use but to evolve the idea of a mask into a work of art.

That wide-open description yielded pleasant creative surprises for the finals, said judge Jamie Meagher, the longtime curator for Pizza Gallery. He said the idea for the contest was spurred by the times we live in.

"That’s why I like this type of open form because it doesn’t limit the artist into one particular style and allows them to have their own interpretation,’’ Meagher said.

The most prolific entrant, with a total of 11 mostly architectural masks, including the winning submission of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was professional designer Janna Kennedy of St. Petersburg, who was born and raised in the Melbourne area. 

"One of the criteria was for the mask to tell a story and hers was the most relevant and timely,’’ Meagher said.

The second place mask woven from blue cotton cord called "Blue Plague" offered a visual reference of the long-nosed masks used to treat patients during the Black Plague. Artist Nancy Bindig of Merritt Island started a couple of other submissions using papier-mache, but returned to her favorite medium of basketry, in which she has a Masters of Fine Arts. "I went back to what I know,’’ she said.