Striking and Mysterious: Deformity Masks in African Cultures, on Exhibit at the QCC Art Gallery

Published: October 11, 2018

Deformity Masks in African Culture expresses the devastating effects of diseases that have existed in Africa through the decades. Wood sculptures possess a striking appearance of amputees, while masks bring into relief distorted facial features and injuries. Some mask carvings are related to a specific disease such as smallpox. A collection of these asymmetrical masks and deformed body sculptures is on display at the QCC Art Gallery beginning October 12, 2018-January 11, 2019.

“This unusual collection, gathered over many years by Ann Goerdt, presents strong images that convince us of their power, even when seen outside of their cultural context,” said Faustino Quintanilla, Executive Director of the QCC Art Gallery. “The detailed carving on these masks makes each of them as unusual as the variety of regions across the continent of Africa.”

“It is an honor to have this show at a gallery so well known for its support of African art, and I am pleased to share my collection with the students, faculty and staff of Queensborough, and with the surrounding community. My hope is that visitors will learn about the background of deformity masks, including their relation to diseases and how they are used in African cultures; and also learn about the current performances of one particular Nigerian group represented in the collection.” Ann Goerdt, Curator, Collector of African Art

Queensborough Community College has the third largest African art collection in the tristate region, and encompasses the full range of ceremonial and practical objects produced on the African continent. Examples of previous major exhibits include, Traditional African Art; Spirit & Tradition: Vessels from Africa; A Liberian Sojurn and Powerful Arts of Cameroon.

Holland Cotter, art critic for The New York Times wrote, “Queensborough Community College has quietly assembled an impressive collection of African Art…with luck, other university galleries around the country will emulate it.”

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