Saturday, July 11, 2015

Denis Paints Masks

My friend Denis lives along the margins of Phillippi Creek, here in Sarasota. 

Phillippi Creek drains the wet interior of Southwest Florida, bringing swampy inland waters directly into Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The creek provides a natural migration corridor for wild creatures like snakes, gators, otters, raccoons, fox and wading birds. 

I have heard people swear that these natural water corridors also bring malevolent forces from the wilderness, like the "invisible forces" that rampage through urban neighborhoods causing chaos in the form of overturned garbage cans, as well as, missing pet cats, dogs, and hamsters. 

Denis has calmed his back yard by lining his fences with a host of painted palm frond masks. The masks, he agrees, may contain voodoo powers, like Polynesian Tiki figures, in that they are able to repel backyard invaders from both the animal and the spirit world.  

 I love viewing his masks, these backyard artworks. Their “terror provoking” gazes and vibrant colors bring me a joyful, child-like lightness while being around them. I own a few of palm frond masks myself. A painted palm frond graces the Hundred Year Oak tree in my front yard; I call it my Hurricane Hex. Since I nailed it to the tree a few years ago, SW Florida has experienced no major tropical storms or hurricanes.  One of Denis' masks also  graces my front door entry warning visitors to be nice.

Here are some more of his colorful masks.

 Like people themselves, each palm frond mask portrays an individual spirit; some have eyes that glow in the dark and no two spirit masks are exactly the same. This week I am revisiting Denis' artwork looking for another Mask, one that will grace my back yard and pool area.  

I know Denis. He is a hard worker and a devoted artist. After he finishes an arduous day's work, cleaning roofs around the Sarasota area, you can find him hunkered down in his backyard studio creating more inspired Palm Frond Masks. I visited him recently to view the products of this all-consuming art form.