On Tuesday evening, Suzanne Benton put a sheet of paper on her face, tore a tiny portion of it over her mouth, eyes and nose and presented a mask to the audience.
From behind the paper mask, the American mask maker and a storyteller, told the story of a struggle for freedom to a rapt audience at the American Center at New Marine Lines. “I gave my life so that you can be free,” she said
“Masks are used worldwide. It is a vehicle I began using because I wanted to express stories of women. Covering the face lets you express a lot that would not have been received well otherwise,” said Benton, author of The Art of Welded Sculpture.
For over 30 years Benton has been a mask performance artiste, sculptor, printmaker and a painter with over 250 solo shows and representation in museum and private collections in almost 29 countries. She is in Mumbai for the past few days to conduct workshops for underprivileged women and children at various NGOs.
A retrospective presentation video of her works was screened at the American Centre on Tuesday.
Benton came to India as a Fulbright scholar in 1992 and has a deep interest in Indian myths and epic poems.
She has made many masks inspired by Indian tales; amongst them are masks based on Chitrangada, from the Mahabharat.
“Indian faces are very inspiring. Indians women have very beautiful eyes,” said Benton.