By Mindy Wilson, UMFA marketing and communications director
New York City-based contemporary artist Marisa Morán Jahn visits the University of Utah this week to open her thought-provoking new exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA).
“MIRROR | MASK” is a multipart project that explores ideas of identity, presentation and self-reflection through works on view in the UMFA’s interactive ACME Lab as well as in the permanent collection galleries. Visitors can preview the exhibition 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15. At 7 p.m., Jahn will discuss her work in the Museum’s Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium. The events are free and open to the public. “MIRROR | MASK” will be on view Aug. 16 through Dec. 9.
Jahn uses sculpture, performance, photography, GIFs and video featuring mirror masks to explore how we see ourselves reflected—and distorted—in others. Influenced by the way masks function in Asian, African and Greek rituals and dramaturgy, Jahn’s new work also questions Western modes of self-presentation in an era of ubiquitous digital screens and mirrors. “MIRROR | MASK” meditates on how we see the Other within ourselves and have presented ourselves throughout history. “By virtue of the fact that they both conceal and reveal, masks can be liberatory, allowing us to fashion, inhabit and reclaim other kinds of agency,” Jahn says.
Most of Jahn’s work will be on view in the ACME Lab, where photographic portraits taken in Central Asia and Jahn’s own neighborhood present intriguing narratives that hover between the quotidian and the mythic. An installation invites visitors to peer into a darkened room and view the masks illuminated by pinlights to create a hallucinatory and haunting effect. Visitors can also explore the themes of concealment and personae by putting on a mirrored mask and taking a selfie in front of a backdrop Jahn created.
Elsewhere in the Museum, Jahn’s masks interact with other artworks on view, playing off themes found in ongoing exhibitions of ancient Egyptian, traditional African and contemporary art by women.
Of Chinese and Ecuadorian descent, Jahn is an artist, multimedia designer, educator and the founder of Studio REV-, a nonprofit organization whose public art projects and tools impact the lives of low-wage workers, immigrants, women and youth.
“MIRROR | MASK” is curated by Virginia Catherall, UMFA curator of education, family programs, visitor experience and community outreach, in collaboration with Jorge Rojas, director of education and engagement, and Emily Izzo, ACME coordinator.
This exhibition and ACME Lab is made possible, in part, by a generous gift from The JoAnne L. Shrontz Family Foundation. Jahn’s work in “MIRROR | MASK” is supported by Creative Capital.
ACME (Art. Community. Museum. Education.) is an outreach initiative dedicated to rethinking the public role of museums. ACME Lab is an innovative space in the Museum’s Emma Eccles Jones Education Center dedicated to community engagement and art experimentation.