Bettina Matzkuhn, Masks

I have been making cloth masks for friends and then made these painted, cotton masks (15x22cm each) as an articulation of dread. I do not cast judgement on workers in care homes who, in my experience, are kind and decent, underpaid and underappreciated. It is more about the predatory nature of the virus and the shadow of mortality.

I was fortunate to be with both of my parents when they died. It was, in each case, an indelible experience. It made me understand that all one’s possessions and achievements fade at that point, and what endures is simple, non-verbal love. I have been dwelling on this, during COVID isolation, as I hear the stories of people separated from their loved ones who are in care homes.

And perhaps, since I am now the matriarch, this is about my own fears. I imagine myself in the shoes of someone who is frail, confused, anxious, and now alone. Dad used to say dying was the “last great adventure”– slipping into what awaits. But dying alone, to me, would be a cruel thing. I have worked and traveled alone, made decisions and accepted responsibilities for myself. But I want my little tribe there to send me off when my canoe slides into the great river.

Bettina Matzkuhn learned to embroider as a child. She uses embroidery and fabric collage to explore personal and broader stories about history, geography and ecology. In the 1980s, her three animated films for the National Film Board of Canada –using textiles– garnered awards. She holds a BFA in Visual Arts and an MA in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University. Her work is exhibited across Canada and internationally, and she writes professionally on the arts, participates in residencies and symposia, teaches and volunteers.

IG @matzkuhn