What we present to the world versus whom we truly are inside is a fascinating theme to me. After all, the word “person” is from the Latin “persona” which originally meant “mask.”

In the Hindu concept Lila life is a game, a creative play of the Absolute in which we all are playing a part. In this case, is our "persona" or "mask" just a prop in a play? Are you friends with your mask or do you hate it? Did you choose it or was it imposed on you? Is it constant or ever changing?

The Masks series are created to provoke a conversation about this mysterious concept – persona.  I am collaborating with photographers Danusia Trevino and Greg Abraham. Every time they take a portrait for this series they ask their subject what they think their mask is. Based on what the answer is I paint a mask over the portrait.

Photographer: Danusia Trevino.

"Most days I walk around with tremendous inner turmoil trying to find stillness. But when I encounter others I don't want to give them that. I want to give them the medicine of deep listening and affirmation. I can't give the world any certainty about my own situation or the future. But I can try to let them feel the truth of my appreciate for them. So I wear that mask until it goes to work on me and feels real."

Photograher: Greg Abraham.

"I have always played a fairy. I think it's my compromise with having to project femininity. A fairy is mysterious and fragile, yet powerful. Also, she is not real, she is ephemeral. She has some scent of a fairy tale, a reference to childhood and all fun and games, and yet she also can be ominous and threatening if we look at the mythological aspect."

Photographer: Danusia Trevino.

Dame says she feels she has to put on a mask when she is the only black person in a room. She feels she has to represent black people well. Danusia (photographer) added that when they visited Jackson Home, Wyoming, Dame was one of the two black people in the entire town.

Photographer: Danusia Trevino.

"With this project I am writing to give you an idea the various masks I wore, the present one I am wearing and how it went through:

I am caring to my lover; a follower to my parents; a supporter to my brother and sisters; and a teammate to my co-worker.

You're right that only your past could help us discover the real you. And for me, I did experienced that during my school days wherein by being a good follower to my parents I did choose to take engineering course in college thinking that I could please them only to find out later that my world is politics.

The real me is the person who cares so much of family, people and its relation to environment. We see to it that everything we do always starts in our own backyard. It really feels so good if you make other people happy in so many ways. But what is more satisfying is that all of us in the family wears the same mask that advocates goodness which gives high regard to the interest of our community, most especially the children and the things around them."

 

Photographer: Danusia Trevino.

Growing up, I'd always been made to feel that I was less than strong. Comparing my small town upbringing with my father's childhood in northeast Philadelphia was no contest. If it was a contest, I always lost somehow. Over the years, I developed an outer armor of tattoos, long hair, unkempt beard, and a stony face, in an attempt to be the tough guy I never was. In truth, I'm softer than ever, but I've always been afraid to let anyone see that vulnerability. The trouble occurs when I get upset when people can't see my real self, even though it's because of my own flawed planning and set decoration. I know now that a "tough guy" is a fiction. It's tougher to be soft in the face of harsh reality. I still have the tattoos and long hair, though. Can't get rid of them.