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'A Universal Feelling' is the branchild of Portland maskmaker Tony Fuemmeler

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Dozens of masks went on display this week at the Chehalem Cultural Center as part of the exhibit, 'A Universal Feelling.'

An exhibit opening this week at the Chehalem Cultural Center concentrates on what is termed as "emotion masks" and involves dozens of artists.

The exhibit, which opened Tuesday at the Sheridan Street facility, is headlined "A Universal Feeling" and is a collaborative installation of masks from more than 60 artists from around the world. The exhibit came to fruition thanks to the work of Tony Fuemmeler, a Portland artist whose work is also presented at the gallery under the title "Reveal/Conceal." That exhibit is a retrospective of 19 years of his past works, primarily as a maker of masks for the theater as well as a puppeteer, theater performer and art teacher.

"When I was offered the possibility to show my work at the Chehalem Cultural Center, I was excited about the opportunity to show the full range of my performance masks over the years," he said in a prepared statement. "That would represent a lot of collaborations and people to reflect and celebrate! I knew that each person and project I've worked on gave me new insights into my craft and materials. I also realized with having a space to show work, I could push into a new collaboration—one I'd been dreaming of for years—one where I could create the initial masks and prompt other artists to complete them."

In "A Universal feeling" Fuemmeler is trying to explore how "emotion is at the same time a personal experience and a communal one," he said. "The installation aspires to surface the beautiful similarities and delicious differences in shared emotions and celebrate the variance of human experience the world over."

To that end Fuemmeler designed a set of mask forms inspired by six emotions: fear, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and disgust. Each of his 60 collaborators – 24 from the Portland area, 24 from across the United States and 12 from abroad -- received an unpainted papier-mâché based on one of the six. They were then tasked with completing the mask in their own way, leaning on their experiences, history, aesthetics, nationality and culture.

"I have long admired Tony's work and have had the pleasure of playing his masks onstage in several settings," Sean Andries, CCC executive director, said. "The ability of a well-crafted mask, full of life, to reveal the true sense of the performer who wears it has always transfixed me. When I heard about Tony's vision for 'A Universal Feeling,' coupled with an exhibit of his mask-making journey with 'Reveal/Conceal,' I was immediately intrigued. By collaborating with artists from many cultures and backgrounds to 'finish' the masks he created for this special project, Tony has found a new way to reveal the nature of the artist within."

An artist reception is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the CCC, 415 E. Sheridan St. The exhibit, which continues into early January, was made possible by grants from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, Regional Arts and Culture Council and more than 40 individual donors that raised an additional $8,683 to make it happen.

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