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"Zombie" mask workshop sparks imagination

Views 61 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 11 - 4 - 2014 | By: Leah Monica


Zombified cardboard gapes at those who enter the temporary work space of L.A. artist Kiel Johnson. The lifelike faces were set out on a table as he worked in the Westmont Alumni Gallery last Wednesday.

Johnson was on campus all afternoon teaching students how to construct 3D masks from cardboard and other materials.

“I like treating creativity like a disease: I just want to infect everyone!” he said.

Johnson has taken art seriously since he was 17, though he said he knew since he was little that he wanted to do something artistic.

“It’s just the lifestyle I’ve always kind of lived.” he said.

The Cal State Northridge instructor described how he stumbled upon the idea of 3D cardboard masks: “I do commercial projects sometimes, and for a period of time I was trying to make serious sculptures, and I ended with a lot of scraps. So I called these masks ‘scrap masks.’ I would just start gluing the scraps together. I had been making robots, and then I thought: ‘what if I tried to go for a more human art form?’”

While visiting his studio, a couple from the Ridley-Tree Museum noticed Johnson’s masks and asked if he would be interested in bringing his talents to Westmont.

He did. “The first time these [masks] have been shown publicly is here [at Westmont].” said Johnson.

Most people made whatever popped into their minds while they enthusiastically wielded exact-o knives and cardboard. Johnson specified that the point of the workshop wasn’t specifically to teach students to make zombie masks, but to create an outlet for fun and creativity.

“I’m more into artistic-ness...[It’s] the laughing and the social interacting, the conversations, the quilting beam mentality [that] brings us together in a special way,” he said

All the materials for the masks were set out on a long table, including long and short slats of cardboard to make the “crown,” and pre-cut shapes for the upper head piece, or “sunglasses,” as Johnson referred to them. From there, students and faculty used exact-o knives, hot glue guns, ping pong balls, sharpies, and fur to perfect their masterpieces.

Fourth-year Ashley Rogers commented on the versatility of the masks: “[You can use them for] Halloween decor, you can make it more Halloween-esque. They could have it on display in the museum or in your dorm room, or you can take your frustration out on the cardboard!”

The masks’ versatility proved true. Attendees crafted spikes, spines, fur, a top hat in, a knight’s helmet, a lion’s mane and a bird’s beak.

“I am making a creature with spines. I started with the idea and I’m just adding on,” said fourth-year James Wong as he worked to cut out said spines from a slat of cardboard. “It’s really cool being able to do this with Kiel.”

Students swarmed around the scrap covered tables inside and outside the alumni gallery through the entire four hour workshop.

“Everybody likes to put a mask on, it changes you into something else for a moment,” Johnson said. “I hope [the students] terrorize campus with masks on their face[s]!”


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