Friday, May 21, 2010

Jorge Añón's Leather masks

One of the fun aspects of travel is unexpected discoveries.
One day as we were wandering in Montevideo on Calle
Tristán Narvaja, known for all its antique shops,
we passed the bookstore Babilonia Libros. I noticed
some masks in the window and a sign which said they
had an exhibit of masks and sculptures by Jorge Añón.
Really - how could I not be intrigued by this window!

As we entered this is what we saw:

My hubby, Jon, was drawn by the greenhouse aspect of the shop.
I was fascinated by the magic..looming above the sales counter
was this leather and metal creature:

We wandered the narrow pathways between books looking
at the masks on the walls. Well, I did anyway. Jon
looked more at books and the atrium ceiling and plants!
Something about the masks pulled on me, especially one
way in the back named La Mâyâ which had the illusion of
a spider web over the face with a mosaic Ouroboros of mirror
shards and leather surrounding the face. The friendly
salespeople (some of whom were also artists) referred me
to Jorge's website:
The website has English and Spanish versions.
We left. I suspected we'd be back.

Back at our daughter's house, I went on Jorge's website
learned more about him and the Mask Investigation Workshop
Center which he has organized, and saw more images, and
determined prices. Jorge, born in Uruguay in 1954,
has worked with a variety of materials but says he is drawn
to the "extraordinary nobility of leather". He works with 1 mm
thick cowhide,forming it, trying in on over and over again to
make sure it is wearable, breathes etc. Speaking of the
importance of masks through history and in the present,
he states: “whenever we feel captivated by that which is
hidden , whenever someone is willing to play in this game
of illusions and whenever someone tries to meet "the other",
masks will surely be beside us.”

We were busy with other activities for a while, but
Jorge's masks kept calling...I've learned over the years
that when something calls as strongly as La Mâyâ did to
me that I should pay attention. So toward the end of our
stay in Montevideo we went back to Babilonia Libros for
another look. The power of the mask held and reading
more about the symbolism of the piece helped me clarify
why I was drawn to it. It was inspired by an image on
a deteriorated cover of Brahamnic sayings. As the
description reads: La Mâyâ - "the eternal weaver of
the illusionary world surrounded by the Ouroboros."
Here it is - on the left as seen in the shop, and on the
right back in Boston. The mask is one of those that
are meant to be held by the attached stick for use.

For those of you readers of Spanish - here is the front
cover (with the image which inspired the piece)
and inside full explanation of the symbolism:

For those of you who don't read Spanish, the jist of the
symbolism is that each of us see the world through the web
of our creation. It is as we perceive it, not just as it
"is"...We are each the eternal weavers participating in the
never ending cycle of existence.

If my plans to return during Carnaval season materialize,
I hope to connect with Jorge and other Uruguayan mask
makers at the Mask Investigation Workshop.

Journey on! Wendy


  1. This is fantastic...unbelievable! thank you for bringing this to me! Linda

  2. Thanks Linda. I thought you'd be intrigued!

  3. Wonderful mask the symbolism hits me right at the core of my belief system. Thanks for sharing that Wendy.