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This is the second part of the interview with more of questions Andrea answered to let her fans get a better knowledge of the artist behind the mask.
Toonari Post (TP): Who or what are your inspirations and why?
Andrea Masse-Tognetti (AMT): I majored in archeology and minored in anthropological studies in college. I always was fascinated by the importance of masks and the role they play in different cultures. It’s a universal item in every culture almost. Masks have power. The fact that they mold to the human face makes them the most culturally interactive form of art that I can think of.
You give your “self” to truly complete the art of the mask, because your own eyes become the soul of the piece. In that way, everyone who wears a mask is a creator, an artist. I collaborate with every person who has ever worn one of my creations, because they are incomplete until someone wears them.
My Dad (an award winning graphic designer, Jean Charles Masse) guided me, but never influenced my art; he let me find my own way. He was encouraging and critiqued me as I developed, but never tried to steer me. He provided me with art materials & schooled me in art history, especially in Asian art motifs, which he loved. As I grew as an artist, he admitted to me once that I had a stronger sense of design than he did; heady compliment, coming from him.
I think that popular influences, for me, include people like Hokusai (for his clean Asian motifs), Jim Henson (for his innovative materials and techniques), and Brian Froud (for his beautiful and sometimes grotesque fantasy art that draws on nature for inspiration).
TP: Have you ever had to deal with a situation where someone else took credit for your work? If so, what did you do to resolve it? How did this art theft make you feel?
AMT: Oh, yes, and it is infuriating! I don’t handle art theft well, emotionally. I worked hard and made a ton of expensive mistakes to perfect my technique and my designs over a period of two decades. Plagiarism is such a blatant, cowardly way to quickly reap the benefits of someone else’s talent that it makes my blood boil.
I fight it when I catch it, and it’s egregious. Copyright, thanks to public sites and date/time stamped images and hard drives, has never been so easy to claim. Even though in some ways, the modern digital picture (and sharing it on public sites) would seem to make things easy to steal (just click and download and it’s “yours”), but from a legal standpoint I find it easy to defend and protect my work. But it still pisses me off!
TP: What is your favorite subject to draw and why?
AMT: Dragons! I love dragons. No one has ever seen one, so there’s no wrong way to depict a dragon. I find my dragons fall right between a “Western” and “Eastern” dragon, usually. Thinner, graceful, probably benevolent, but also something that deserves respect!
TP: If there was any art medium that you wish you could master, what would it be and why?
AMT: Glass! Oh, wow… I would love to learn how to make borosilicate glass art. It’s my favorite thing ever. Dale Chihuly is one of my favorite contemporary artists. I love everything he makes. All of my favorite artisans are glass artisans.
TP: Outside of art, what is your life like?
AMT: Haha… I’m pretty basic. I am totally driven to do my work, so I find it almost too easy to spend 12 hours a day just “makin’ stuff”, as I like to say.
I have a tiny, little life, really. Sometimes I get to do glamorous things, but mostly I enjoy being a stay-at-home mom, getting to work out of my studio and be here for my family and my dog.
I relax with plenty of hobbies, like kayaking which I LOVE, and you can find me out on the Niagara River every day during the warmer months. I just stop whatever I’m doing, load the ‘yak on the car, and go. I also ride my bike on long trails, and I take my pretty husky, Kiba, out for hikes in the winter when I can’t cycle or paddle.
My daughter is in college now… It’s been different, getting used to the quiet. I’m re-learning how to be selfish with my time, the way I was in my twenties when I had no children or obligations. In some ways, I’m sadder, but in some ways I’m much more liberated and creative, so it balances out.
TP: What are your goals in life? Do you plan to continue art as a hobby or make it a career?
AMT: Art is more than my career; it’s who I am. If I have to describe myself, I call myself an artist first, before even “woman” or “wife” or any other title.
My goal is what it has always been; to improve as an artist and be the best in my chosen field. I don’t want to be the richest mask maker, or the most famous… I just want to be the best. That’s all I have control over, and really, that’s all I want.
TP: Do you feel that your culture has influenced you in some way that makes you different from other artists?
AMT: No, not really. I guess I’m fortunate to be alive in the time I’m alive in, living in a country like the United States, where it’s okay (maybe now more than ever) to be a strong, independent, self-representing artist AND a woman at that. With a bit of talent, a working knowledge of social media, and a good digital camera, there’s nothing an artist can’t do for herself these days. I think that’s awesome.
Image Courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/pages/Merimask/103347893037722