I never thought I would cover my face in public. But here I am, grocery-shopping with a perky little yellow cotton mask from the Gap. Never mind that I am from France, a country that for almost three decades has struggled mightily with the question of whether or not to allow women to cover their face in public. And never mind that while I have strived for tolerance, I have also found it difficult to see anything but a sign of oppression in female face covering.

But here I am, masked, and suddenly compelled to not only consider another point of view, but experience it as well.

What I find is that, away from the male gaze (or any gaze, really), I feel both safer and more isolated. It's hard to talk and hard to be heard. It's also hard to see, with the edges of the mask creeping up my face and into my field of vision. I can't seem to hear well. Nobody smiles anymore.

But there is also a strange power in my newfound invisibility. I go about my business unbothered. I don't bother with makeup, except for a bit around the eyes. I can be absorbed in my thoughts. No more eye contact required, no small talk either. The world has turned efficient.

I have stepped into a different, newness and interesting world. Something to explore.

Today, I am introducing the (un)Masked series: nine paper embroideries on the theme of masks .

What is masked? What happens to the hidden body? Who are we when we are no longer seen? Who are we when we chose not to be seen?

The (un)Masked series offers nine pictorial responses.

This week's is (un)Spoken: a mixed media collage hand-embroidered in linen. Notice this attitude. Notice the mask, part football helmet, part restraint, the foulard, the cleavage, the midi skirt. This is what ambivalence looks like, the mix of fear and excitement, old and new, covered and uncovered. We are constantly asked to be one thing or another but our lives are more complicated than just one side of an issue. We flip-flop. We try things. We change our minds. There is beauty in our ambivalence.

Enjoy the artwork. Let me know what you think.

A très bientôt,

PMN

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