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Naomi Bebo, Beaded Mask

Naomi Bebo, Beaded Mask, 2015

Naomi Bebo
born 1979 Los Angeles, California; lives Phoenix, Arizona
Beaded Mask
seed beads, deer hide, ermine and ribbons on Iraqi gas mask
9 ½ x 7 ½ x 6 ½ in.
lent by the Tweed Museum, © 2020 Naomi Bebo
photo by David Young-Wolff

Within many tribes, masks continue to serve an important purpose. Masks are used in many ways: for war, storytelling, relationship-building, and spirituality, to name a few. Frequently, the masks are not masks at all but rather living and breathing entities that even when not worn must be treated with respect. It is often understood that the mask has the power to transform the wearer into a spirit, gift the wearer with the power of the spirits, or call the spirits into being.

This mask was created with the intent to transform but not in the traditional sense. Naomi Bebo has taken an object of fear and genocide and recreated it. According to Bebo, “While the Beaded Mask is a manifestation of our ability to be better, I have preserved the original function of the gas mask to show that in spite of the beauty of the embellishments, it is still only a beautiful gas mask. In the end, we may choose to march into an apocalypse marked by oil dependence, environmental degradation, and cultural genocide; a world in which our children will actually need gas masks to breathe; or we may choose to be greater than our basest material.”

 Download an art card for Beaded Mask