The Many Faces of Doug Berky
He talked about how the masks, which he makes primarily for use in theater productions, are “servant to a greater good rather than artistic expression.” A performer himself, he noted how the masks make the performers feel hidden at first, but that’s ultimately deceptive. “The masks actually reveal more than they hide,” he said. “If the face is hidden, the focus goes to your body. The illusion is that the mask begins to move if the actor moves his body well.”
When Berky made his first mask in 1976 out of paper, glue and water, he discovered that working with his hands was therapeutic. Since then he has created many masks for everything from college theater productions to performances by dancers and magicians to children’s theater programs. He finds inspirations from many sources, including the work of artists and photographers and masters like Julie Taymor, who created the masks for The Lion King on Broadway.
The kind of mask he creates depends on many factors. For instance, how will it be used? A dancer might need space for peripheral vision. What’s the size of the theater? A small mask won’t register in a 1500-seat auditorium. Other factors include how the light will hit the mask, the budget, and whether his creations can fold up or fit in his van.
He often sculpts out of clay and then puts paper mache on top. Other materials can include latex, neoprene, and leather. And he’s always experimenting, such as discovering that paper put in a blender creates a stone look.