Making Faces: Masks and Masquerading Around the World

By Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Author Marty Rubin once said that, “behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.” These stories allow us to see the world in a better light. The Whatcom Museum invites you to join us as we explore masks and the stories behind them.

Masks carved by Native American artists from the Northwest will also be on display, presenting a

Tsonokwa Mask, carved by Scott Jensen

modern take on traditional masks from tribes around the region. At the event, you can learn how Pacific Northwest tribes used masks in their celebratory and religious ceremonies. Guests will also be able to try on several hands-on masks made in traditional Northwest Coast Native styles and make their own three-dimensional masks.

“Masks have played an important role in many tribal traditions throughout the world. They’re used for so many things, from ceremonies to ensure a good harvest or successful hunts and fishing,  to scaring away demons and curing illness. For some northernmost Native American tribes, masks hold sacred meaning and are used to convey ancient stories.” said Susanna Brooks, the Director of Learning Innovation at Whatcom Museum.

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Transcending Boundaries: Becoming Helmi

The Whatcom Museum’s online virtual exhibitions feature a variety of historic photographs, artwork, and ephemera that visitors can view at their leisure. Recently, the Museum has uploaded a new virtual gallery that showcases a sampling of artwork by Helmi Juvonen (1903-1985), which can be viewed HERE. Scroll down to learn more about the life Helmi.

Helmi Juvonen, Vantage, circa 1975-1976;
Gouache on rice paper. Gift of Dr. Ulrich & Stella Fritzsche.

Transcending Boundaries: Becoming Helmi

Helmi Dagmar Juvonen (1903-1985) was a Seattle-based artist who found success capturing the culture of Native American tribes across the Pacific Northwest. She was a persistent artist who strived to create art in a time where being a female artist was tough. Even as she struggled with poverty and mental illness, Helmi continued to create art until her final days.

Finding Her Love and Audience

Born in Butte Montana in 1903, Helmi found her love of art at a young age from her father, a Finnish immigrant, who made pencil sketches and watercolor paintings for her and her sister. When she was 15, her family moved to Seattle. During the time that she attended Queen Anne High School, Helmi sold handmade rag dolls and greeting cards at a local department store.

After graduating high school, she worked as a seamstress for a local company and took on small side jobs to pay her way through art school at Seattle Art School. Through these side jobs, Helmi established a line of connections that included affluent citizens and successful artists. In 1929, through one of these connections, Helmi got a scholarship to attended Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in 1929 where she studied puppetry and lithography. In 1930 she was hospitalized with manic-depressive illness (now known as bipolar disorder) and spent three years at Northern State Hospital.

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