Noh Masks

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Art in the Garden at Portland Japanese Garden featured Mirrors of the Mind: The Noh Masks of Ohtsuki Kokun October through early December. It was my first exposure to Noh masks, and what was even more unique about my first experience, is it was the only time in my life I had learned about masks as an art form.  Prior to seeing this exhibit, I may have been scared of masks, or did not understand the allure of masks in such places as Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  It was an amazing exhibit, and beautifully displayed.  In reading about each mask, I began to deepen my understanding of the art form, the detail, the meaning, their place in theater, and the unique history behind each one.


The 30 hand-carved masks displayed by Kokun were works of art. I tried to imagine the "window to the soul", as each one portrayed emotion and feeling.



Later, I was at our annual Christmas potluck with my book-club and the hostess had a wall of masks displayed in her home.  I stood and looked at them for a long while, recognizing that I no longer felt afraid of them, and saw them as works of art.  


I would like to learn more about masks and their place in history.  I find them fascinating now that through education my fear of them has been replaced by knowledge.  I remember when I was a student at Portland State years ago, "Let Knowledge Serve the City" was displayed in block print on a walkway/overpass on Broadway.  Knowledge empowers, conquers fear, and opens the mind to wider and more diverse perspectives.  The Noh mask exhibit was one example of how knowledge did this for me, and I am grateful for this small awakening.  As I reflect on it now, I can see that acquired knowledge awakens the desire for the pursuit of more knowledge. 

In these days of political unrest, my hope for all of us is that we continue to open our minds to opportunities and experiences that will foster the procurement of knowledge.  Then, with knowledge, activation through grassroots movements that seek to change the course of history. 

Even after all these years, this bumper sticker still says it all:

   

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