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Talk about the Pod Masks here.
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This series of masks emerged out of my explorations and adventures in California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park, 120 miles northeast of Southern California’s Urban Basin.
The natural history of the parkland serves as a powerful source of artistic inspiration. Ten million years ago, the floor of Red Rock Canyon was a lake, surrounded by lava flows. The high cliffs evolved through gradual uplifting and tilting of masses of rock, from beneath the canyon floor.
Today’s rugged cliff formations, sculpted by wind and water, are designated nesting areas for the prairie falcon and golden eagle. For centuries, Red Rock Canyon served as a sacred site in the lives of the Kauwaiisu Indians, who collected willow and cottonwood near streams here, to weave their distinctly patterned baskets. The entire bioregion is now protected by California’s State Park System.
As sculpture, the masks begin as compositions in clay, blending geometric shapes and forms, emerging from contour studies of the canyon floor and surrounding cliff formations. The abstract features of the human face are built into these clay images, completing the mask foundations.
Archival paper mache masks are sculpted over these clay molds. The surfaces of each mask are built up with layers of hand made papers and textures of desert sands. Dry seed pods and small pieces of desert foliage are often added.
As a presenter in the Masks as Transformation Conference, I was initiated into the Yoruba Masquerade, by Tunji Ojeyemi, scholar bridging the academic world, the world of professional theatre and the traditional world of Yoruba masquerade.
“We have been delighted to host an installation of masks created by Judy Leventhal. Her work represents and reflects the ecology of the California Desert Region; and testifies to the inspirational character of this landscape.”
— Mark R Faull, California State Park Ranger, Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center 1997
“Your evocative masks, with themes of the feminine as protector of the environment, became exemplars of the core ideals of both the Exhibition and the Conference.”
— Dr. Ronald Naverson Coordinator, Masks of Transformation Conference
Yucca Seed Pod Sculptures
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“Hesperoyucca whipplei is an amazing plant. Its delicate beauty, varied forms, and the exclusive relationship with its sole pollinator, make it a very interesting subject. For all of its tenacity Hesperoyuca whipplei is still very vulnerable. Our wild land areas are rapidly disappearing, and so are the Hesperoyuccas. To survive it must remain wild.”
— Liz Hope-King, Photographer and Educator
Vasquez Rocks Nature Preserve, with its dramatic rock formations and sandy soils, protects colonies of Chaparral Yucca, thriving here for centuries.
Every spring, rapidly growing golden yellow candle stick shaped stalks of yucca display a progression of buds, blossoms, wilted flowers and green seed pods. Tiny yucca moths emerge from their silky, sandy underground cocoons to pollinate the creamy white blossoms.
The Yucca Seed Pod series celebrates the interrelated reproductive cycles between the Chaparral Yucca and its sole pollinator, the tiny Yucca Moth. Without the tiny moth to pollinate its blossoms, the Chaparral Yucca could not produce seeds and would become extinct. The tiny Yucca Moth needs Chaparral Yucca’s developing seedpods as a place to deposit and incubate its eggs. Inside the growing seed pods, the moth’s eggs hatch into larvae which mature along with the seeds. *
Each sculpture begins with a clay foundation, my impression of Vasquez Rocks parkland’s complex ecology. The physical process of working with clay—pressing, twisting and lifting –connects me to the universal rhythms of life. Mature, dry Yucca seed pods are inserted at rhythmic intervals, through out each sculpture, as tangible symbols of interrelated processes of pollination and regeneration. The clay compositions serve as armatures upon which the organic paper sculptures are built. Once the paper sculptures dry, the clay armatures are removed; and, a light weight paper sculpture remains.
* Natural History of Hesperoyucca Whipplei LIzabeth Ann Hope-King M.A. Education: Environmental Education, California State University, San Bernardino, 2006.
“I am blessed to have a piece of Judy’s art placed just right in front of my desk in my personal office. In between patients, I sit and breathe and look into the piece on my wall. My body gently relaxes and my mind quickly comes to a place of silent space. Judy’s perspective for my needs in my office was spot on. If you want peace and serenity in your office environment, I recommend you give Judy a call.”
— Dr Greg Vanvakeris Spot-On Chiropractic, Studio City, CA
“Judy Leventhal’s Seed Pod Sculpture has been an inspiring and uplifting addition to my healing space.”
— Rev Jennifer Hadley, Minister, Agape International Spiritual Center,
Founder Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith