Launa Eddy: The Mask Maker
It began with a fish head.
For Halloween eight years ago, Launa Eddy crafted a giant “zombie fish” mask out of papier-mache. It was molded to sit on her head, allowing her eyes to see through its gaping mouth and over its flapping tongue.
“It was really strange,” the artist and recent Roaring Fork Valley transplant said with a laugh over coffee at Victoria’s this week. “It got a lot of attention, and people really liked it and started asking me to make things for them, for costumes and music videos and photo shoots. But that’s really how I got started, by getting creative on Halloween.”
The zombie fish helped launch Eddy’s career as an artist. She had studied anthropology and had plans to become an ethnographer. But those plans changed as she got into mask-making, then sculpture and metal-working.
She often landed gigs making masks for luxury-brand advertisements and window displays. Earlier this year, Sean Lennon’s band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger commissioned Eddy to make masks for its performance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” While playing its song “Animals” on the show, the band was intermingled with backup dancers donning Eddy’s zebra, rabbit and owl masks.
Her favorite process, though, is working with people on masks for individual costumes and for masquerade balls.
“That’s the most fun,” she said. “To sit down with someone and talk about a costume and figure out what their character is.”
In those cases, she’ll talk out ideas, sketch concepts and images and then make a clay mold of a person’s face to craft a mask fitted to them.
“It’s a really fun process from start to finish,” she said.
This Halloween is Eddy’s first in the valley. A New England native, she spent the better part of a decade in New York working as a sculptor and metalworker, following her breakthrough in mask-making. She moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in May after a quick spring visit to scope it out. She had worked at the artists’ cooperative 3rd Ward Brooklyn and was enticed here by friends at Basalt’s Mid Valley Artisans to build out the wood and metal shop there into a similar creative co-op space.
“They lured me out here with the idea of doing metalworking and being surrounded by other artists,” she said.
She’s been making masks out of her apartment in Glenwood Springs while doing metalworking and bronze-casting out of the Basalt studio. The expanses of open space in the valley, and the places to make art here, have been inspiring for Eddy.
“In New York, you don’t have any space and you’re clamoring for all these little wedges of what they call space,” she said. “But it’s not space.”
She’s enjoyed an auspicious start in the local art scene. She was selected to exhibit sculpture work in the annual Support Women Artists Now show, presented by the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities. Her bronze piece “Above It All” won the Artist Choice Award, meaning it was voted as the favorite work by the 33 artists in the exhibition. The award was announced Monday.
Her mask work has evolved from her early flamboyant and funky creations into more restrained and elegant Venetian masks. Recent creations include classic masquerade models, multicolor birds and monsters. They range from simple to sparkling, elaborate creations bedazzled in gold and crystals.
Masks offer a rare opportunity for an artist, she said, because they interact in such a personal way with people — an interplay you cann’t replicate in other art forms.
“A mask is a character that a person takes on,” she said. “It brings out something in them or hides something, and the range of emotions that you can get from putting a character on your face — whether you want to be humorous or dark or serious or sexy — the mask can bring that out. It engages the person wearing it and the people around them, as well. Making jewelry or furniture or anything else doesn’t do that.”
Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.
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