UNCG Campus Weekly

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Deborah Bell

Photo of Deborah BellDeborah Bell (Theatre) is editor of a volume of essays on masquerade in its various forms. “Masquerade: Essays on Tradition and Innovation Worldwide” was published in mid-December by McFarland. The introduction and two essays in the volume are by Bell. One essay, considering Pixar animators, is by Dr. Heather Holian (Art), whose animation research centers on the collaborative process of Pixar Animation Studios and the role of the individual artists within this studio structure. Other contributors are costume designers, museum curators, and scholars in English, theatre, anthropology, African history, critical media and cultural studies. Their exploration acknowledges traditional notions of masquerade, but also seeks to define and describe masquerade in new ways as experienced in today’s popular culture.

This collection of essays examines the art and function of masquerade from a broad range of perspectives, she explains. From African slave masquerade in New World iconography, to the familiar Guy Fawkes masks of the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the branded identities created by celebrities like Madonna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, the essays show how masquerade permeates modern life.

Given the extent of masquerade as we now experience it, Bell suggests that we can consider our current era as the “Age of Masquerade.” This Age of Masquerade is the artistic inheritor of the Information Age because never before have we had such a wealth of imagery at our disposal, imagery that we constantly manipulate with the assistance of so many technical resources.

Bell is professor of costume design in the Department of Theater, where she has taught since 1980. Her book “Mask Makers and Their Craft: An Illustrated Worldwide Study” (2010) profiles mask makers in Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Italy, Sweden, Malawi, Nigeria, Japan, Bali, South Korea, Canada, and both coasts of the United States. In 2014 it was reprinted in paperback.