Miniature masks and sculpture are a test of an artist’s skill. They are merciless about showing who has a steady hand on the carving tool or the paint brush, and who cares about finishing details. Often, too, they demonstrate an artist’s ingenuity. Tsimshian / Haida Mitch Adam’s “Peaceful Warrior” (shown below roughly full size) is an example of all these things, which is why I jumped to buy it when I learned it was available.
The mask is one of two that Adams carved from a block of laminated wood (the other is currently in the Spirit Wrestler Gallery). Except for a few pieces, such the eyebrows, the pupils, the lower lip, and part of the nostrils, what you see is not paint, but the natural colors of different layers of wood. From the outside working in, the layers are Swamp Ash, Ebony, Mahogany, Maple and Wenge. Adams has chosen to make so few additions to the block that you might call the result an example of minimalism.
Adams, who seems to be making miniatures one of his specialties, writes, “I enjoy carving this size of mask, to challenge my self and to see what level of detail and character I can get out of these woods. [I] try to carve and finish it as it would be done for a full size mask.”
Faced with such ingenious economy, what can I do except try to imitate it, and let the mask speak for itself?