Daniel Callahan: En-MassQ

March 11 - June 11, 2023

It is said that before we were painting on the walls of caves, we were painting on ourselves—that our bodies were our first canvases, and that in marking, decorating, and adorning them, we took active part in our own evolution and actualization.

MassQing” (an alternative spelling of “masking” that I use) is the ritual marking of the face with paint to reveal our individual inner essences. The artform is derived from ancient traditions of body decoration practiced by nearly all Indigenous peoples across the world. I make this ancient and ubiquitous tradition contemporary through the stories and faces of my subjects, who range from family members to close friends, community members, and chance acquaintances. 

En-MassQ includes works of art from two series: Month of the MassQ (2011) and Year of the MassQ (201620). Month of the MassQ was a month-long multimedia performance in which I painted my face every day. I captured the performance with photographs, writing, and audio and visual vignettes that detailed my process and my thoughts around the creation of each MassQ. Year of the MassQ expanded the practice; collaborating with individuals in my community, I used MassQing as a platform for connecting with others and sharing their stories. The piece culminated in a series of images, MassQs, and encounters.

Simultaneously symbolic, abstract, and figurative, MassQs aim to change the way we “look” in both meanings of the word: how we appear to others and how we gaze upon them in turn. The broader socio-political and racial implications of how we look determine our collective reality. It is my intention that these MassQs allow us to see each other as unique works of art, unified in our collective revealing to each other in the spirit of radical vulnerability, celebration, and reverence.

— Daniel Callahan

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Artist’s Resource Trust.




March 11, Saturday, 11 a.m. — Celebration of Spring Exhibits
April 21, Friday, 7 p.m. — Artist Talk: Daniel Callahan
April 22, Saturday, 2 p.m. — MassQing Workshop


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