Chic Spotlight: The Masks We Wear

Chic Spotlight: The Masks We Wear

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Read about a new limited-time exhibition that touches on humor, fear, friendship, and protest.

Cincy Chic: What is The Masks We Wear?
Sara Vance-Waddell, Contributor to The Masks We Wear: The Masks We Wear is a first-of-its-kind exhibition examining the symbolism of face coverings amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is now on view at Pendleton Street Photography. 

The exhibit is a mix of protest, humor, fear, friendship and sometimes even creative whimsy designed to explore the multitude of feelings and experiences that the world is rapidly barrelling through. Submissions from artists around the world mixed with local art speak to both the similarity and the complexity of this time across ethnicity, gender and age.

Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind it?
Vance-Waddell: In the weeks and months since shelter-in-place orders by government and public health officials were lifted, face masks have become politicized. This has occurred despite recommendations to continue their use when entering public spaces, rapidly transitioning from a Westernized stigma of illness or frailty to political affiliations or assumed personal beliefs. The designation of Wuhan, China as the point of origin for the virus brought disdain and hostility toward Asian populations, who had been wearing masks for decades. Additionally, African-Americans, long under the duress of police scrutiny, fear both for their health and personal safety if masked. Even the way a mask is constructed became an issue of personal privilege and financial ability.

Curator Ena Nearon said her personal inspiration was, “to curate the exhibit came as a result of having seen how artists responded positively to an increasingly foreboding future. They found a way to shine in the midst of the fear and encouraged others to see life through a different lens. I wanted to be a part of that. Sara’s generosity made that possible for me.”

Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it?
Vance-Waddell: The exhibition is curated by Ena Nearon, features the contemporary mask collection of Sara M. Vance Waddell, cast face masks by artist Leslie Daly, and is hosted at the gallery of Jens Rosenkrantz Jr. The Masks We Wear also features two of the gallery’s Bridges Not Walls artists from Cuba, Osy Milian’s large acrylic paintings and Zarza’s series of lithographs featuring African witch doctor masks.

Cincy Chic: Where can readers view The Masks We Wear Exhibition?
Vance-Waddell: Pendleton Street Photography is located at 1310 Pendleton Street in Cincinnati. They are open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5pm, and the exhibit is on view through September 10.

Cincy Chic: What makes this project unique?
Vance-Waddell: This is truly a first-of-its-kind exhibition putting the pandemic on display in a new creative way as we continue to adjust to a “new normal” in an uncertain time. 

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along?
Vance-Waddell: Readers can learn more about the show by visiting, and following Pendleton Street Photography’s Facebook page