jane anne evans

soul catcher #1011 (medicine mask)

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Soul Catcher #1011 is the authentic 1989 cobalt therapy mask of Judith McGarry. It is a contemporary collaboration between medical doctors and artist Jane Evans to ward off the demons of illness.

Judy McGarry was a close friend. She was a very special bohemian butterfly creature who lived and let live freely. She became ill in 1989 very suddenly at the age of 50 and lost her memory and speech within days. It was discovered that she had a very aggressive brain cancer and that she would probably only live 2 weeks. She elected to die without further intervention but because of the silent but pervasive pressure of her lover, her daughter and friends, including me, she gave in and had the surgery and the ensuing cobalt therapy. Even with that she was given almost no life expectation.

One day soon after the surgery, she arrived at my studio and tossed this transparent plexiglass mask at me and said, "Paint it or something!" It had all of her medical information written on it and a strangely spooky resemblance to her. I was at that moment working on a series of plexiglass sculptures called 'soul catchers' which in fact were created in much the same physical way this mask was – a plaster mold was made of her face and then a sheet of plexiglass was placed on top of it and placed in an oven and heated until it conformed to the shape of the plaster. When cool, part of the halo around the mask was trimmed and the remaining part bent back using a propane torch and holes drilled in these wings to hold the bolts which held Judy still, attached to the cobalt machine. Lazer trajectories were calibrated and marked n the outside of the mask in order that no healthy brain cells be damaged by the cobalt.

My other sculptures were about catching and holding spirits. So would this be – a contemporary medicine mask. I began to read everything I could find about masks, about medicine masks, death masks, about Egyptian masks, Mexican masks, Chinese masks, native Canadian and American masks. It was commonly believed by ancient religions that the spirit resided in the mask. I used traditional female patterns used by indigenous Canadian women to weave health and safety into the patterns of their beads on the items made for their babies. I researched indigenus stones and found that the rose quartz, the turquoise and the amethyst were all believed to have health generating properties. The third eye was so that she could visualize her way to health. All in all the mask was worked on for more than 250 hours.

I gifted the mask to Judy and when she died she left it back to me. She lived for 2 years and a month after the surgery – just time enough to learn to fly.

– Jane Evans 1990

Copyright ©2008, Jane Anne Evans. All rights reserved.