BECKIE KRAVETZ

OUR AMERICA/WHOSE AMERICA?

2022 | Ferrin Contemporary | North Adams, MA

Our America/Whose America? Is a “call and response” exhibition between contemporary artists and historic ceramic objects. View the historic collection here.


Undone

2022
stoneware, acrylic, resin, vintage balance scale, mixed media
14 x 17 x 38”

For this exhibition, I was asked to respond to a collection of historic, mass-market ceramic memorabilia, some of which depict racial stereotypes that both reflect and feed systemic racism in the United States. 

ABOUT BECKIE KRAVETZ

Beckie Kravetz began her sculpture career as a theatrical mask maker. She received her training at the Yale School of Drama, the Centro Maschere e Strutture Gestuali in Italy, the Taller de Madera in Guatemala, and the Instituto Allende in San Miguel, Mexico. In 1988, she became the resident mask maker for the Los Angeles Opera, where she also worked as a principal makeup artist and assistant wig-master. Her skills have helped transform the faces of dozens of singers, including Placido Domingo, Sir Thomas Allen, Carol Vaness, Samuel Ramey, Gerald Finley, and Rod Gilfry.

A 1993 exhibition of her masks at Roark Gallery in Los Angeles led to the creation of Beckie’s first series of non-wearable, sculptural masks. Years of working with actors inspired her to explore the mask’s inner surface; the point of transformation between actor and character. Early works using painting and text on the inside of the face evolved into masks containing three-dimensional tableaus, as seen inside the faces of the Sculpted Arias series.

In 1998, the Los Angeles Opera hosted the premiere solo exhibition of Kravetz’s Sculpted Arias at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Select pieces in the series have subsequently been shown at the Metropolitan Opera Gallery, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson MOCA, Tansey Contemporary Gallery (Santa Fe), the Seattle Opera Ring gallery, and several others. She continues to add to the Sculpted Arias series, including the array of characters from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, but her work is not limited to operatic themes.

Beckie’s recent exhibitions include contemporary figurative sculpture in bronze, ceramic and mixed media. She creates installations, figures interacting with masks, and portrait masks in the style of the Sculpted Arias, but depicting historical or contemporary individuals.  In addition to masks and sculpture, Beckie recently sculpted friezes, corbels and doorframes on the restoration of the historic Dutch House in Brookline, MA.  She continues her work as a makeup artist and wig master with Opera Roanoke and the new Berkshire Opera Festival.

In 2001, Beckie Kravetz was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Spain to study wood sculpture, ritual masks, and puppets. She has also received grants from the California Arts Council, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, National Education Association, Massachusetts Local Cultural Council, and private foundations. Beckie’s sculptures have been exhibited at the , Springfield (MA) Museum, Tucson Museum of Art (Arizona), The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles (solo exhibition), Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art, the Jewish Community Museum (San Francisco), the Tansey Contemporary and Downey Galleries in Santa Fe (solo exhibitions), Shidoni Galllery (Santa Fe), Lincoln Center Library (NYC), Gallery 10 and Minds Eye Gallery (Scottsdale, AZ), Davis Dominguez, Tansey, Dinnerware and TDS galleries (Tucson), Walker Gallery (Davis, CA), Mesquite Grove Gallery (Patagonia, AZ), Hathaway Gallery (Oneonta, NY), A.P.E. Gallery (Northampton, MA) and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her theatrical mask work has been seen in numerous opera, regional theater and university productions including Los Angeles Opera, Santa Fe Opera, New York’s Classic Stage Company, Pan Asian Repertory Theater and Lincoln Center Institute, LA’s Ziggurat Theater and Towne Street Theater, Teatro La Tía Norica and Gran Teatro Falla (Cádiz, Spain), Double Edge Theatre (Ashfield, MA), Yale University, Williams, Bryn Mawr and Hunter Colleges. She has also created masks for Madonna’s Max Factor Gold international campaign, and the opera-themed Nike and Pepsi commercials featuring Charles Barkley and Michael Jackson.

Beckie’s teaching experience includes working with students of all ages and with special populations. She offers workshops in sculpture, mask making, theatrical makeup and opera makeup. She has received grants from the National Educations Association, California and Arizona Arts Councils to be an Artist in Residence, working with adults and children with physical and emotional disabilities and with women in transitional housing facilities. She has also taught at a variety of educational and theatrical institutions including Williams College, Mount Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Hunter College, California Polytechnic University (Pomona), Los Angeles Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Tijuana, LA Craft and Folk Art Museum, LA Theatreworks, California Arts Resources Services, Afro-American Museum of Los Angeles, Arts for All, LA Exceptional Children’s Foundation, Tucson Parks and Recreation, and Patagonia, AZ Public Library.

ON HER WORK

My vision is inspired by 38 years as a theatrical mask-maker and principal makeup artist with Los Angeles Opera. The transformation of the human face fascinates me. My wearable masks eventually evolved into fine art masks containing sculpted interior dioramas: tiny stage sets revealing aspects of the character’s identity. Then, those masks evolved into heads and busts, then full figures.  Sometimes I combine figures with masks, showing individuals on the brink of resolution or change.  My choices of ceramic, bronze, resin, fabric, and mixed media further enrich my characters’ narrative.

Theater folks have long been aware of the mask’s power to both conceal and reveal. We have just come through a time in which masks were with all of us, every day.  This new context of masking in daily life, along with isolation and the need for connection inspire my latest bodies of work.  My sculptures, now unmasked, implore you to look into their eyes.