Submitted by: Mrs. Towanna Miller-Johnson
Materials: This mask was created during the 2020 Corona Virus Pandemic. Beaded using flat style, peyote stitch and Iroquois raised bead work. The inside is made of pleather, it has holes underneath to breath and the beak is open to place medicinal herbs inside. The middle layer is a thick felt. The outside is made of velveteen adorned with Iroquois beaded vines and purple flowers outlined in turquoise blue. The muse of inspiration was a Crow which was beaded flat style in the center of the hat. The brim of the hat is peyote beaded. A pair of sunglasses were used for the tinted round eyes. The mask has three straps to secure to the head with buckles on the side for adjustment. The tip of the beak is a jingle cone.
I have to admit that I have a dark side, only to the point that I enjoy horror movies and the paranormal. I wanted my mask to reflect the time we are all in now. For me, I have always incorporated the past into my work. Long ago they had plague masks with medicinal herbs put inside. To me they always look like birds. I’ve recently been beading many different birds. For this project I decided the Crow was now my muse. It like the fact that my mask has a darkness to it sprinkled with beauty, just like the time we are now in. Surrounded by so much darkness like death and sickness yet if you look around we do have beauty in our lives such as kindness and generosity. Some tears went into this while listening to the news and missing visiting family members. My moods change from sadness and then to being grateful for all that I do have. We will get through this together! Be safe.
Towanna Miller-Johnson is a Mohawk fine artist, originally born in Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, raised in New York and then went to pursue her education at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. She returned home to the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Quebec where her mother is from and she continues to do her art. Her media is oil, acrylic, wood burning, carving, and beading. She loves to paint in bright vibrant colors to tell Traditional Iroquois stories. When she’s not painting you can find her beading in one of many styles: flat plains style, peyote stitch and Iroquois raised bead work. She has been beading for forty years now. She is very diverse as an artist and some of her art is functional such as the carved beaded cradle boards and now her beaded Corona Covid mask.
This mask was created for the Breathe community Facebook group – A collection of traditionally crafted masks demonstrating resiliency through 21st century pandemic.