BELFAST—Katherine Daggett, 17, is a junior at Belfast Area High School and what puts her in the Rad Kid category is the depth of her art. She tackles topics that seem far beyond her years. Heidi O’Donnell, a visual arts educator at BAHS, calls her “a very talented young lady.”
Outside of the art room on the second floor, an array of plaster masks hang on the wall displaying human faces painted in vibrant colors.
“The classes were required to do some research on several cultures,” said O’Donnell. “When the students found one with a visual connection or a deeper connection to content, the students delved deeper into that particular culture and created a mask that was inspired by that chosen culture’s imagery, symbolism, and materials.”
Katherine’s mask sticks out among the rest. It’s both aesthetically striking and disturbing. I asked her to tell us what we were seeing.
“I found the African tribal masks to be the most aesthetically pleasing and diverse in design,” she explained. “I knew very little about African tribal culture and knew even less about how they used masks. It was the Punu tribe mask style that drew my attention immediately, because of the amount of realism they included. When I researched this tribe, I saw a lot of photos where the women were expected to look a certain way. Certain women were kidnapped and treated as though they were objects by the men of the other tribes, and so I tried to represent what those tribes found to be ‘ideal beauty’ in their culture and show the gruesome element to that.”
The mask looks like a horror mask with a bloody tic-tac-toe pattern on the female forehead, the right eye “sewn” shut and the lips dripping in blood.
Put in context, this mask was not supposed to mimic a real Punu tribal mask, but to draw from its most prominent elements, so she could put her own spin on it. Referencing the mask’s forehead, Katherine said, “The man would usually scar the woman’s face, but It was seen as beautiful and a symbol of the woman’s strength. In this culture, another standard of beauty was a certain triangular facial shape and protruding lips. They also believe that closed eyes represent a meditative state, which brings the women closer to their ancestors, so I just chose to close one eye in the mask with stitches to represent how desperate someone might be to feel peace and tranquility, and in this case of the mask, to have it forced upon her.”
Lastly, the full lips with a smear of blood have meaning.
“With tribal masks that usually show these full red lips, I wanted my mask to show the smear of red, in that beauty is not a permanent state; it can just be a temporary image that we have for the moment.”
In another piece Daggett created for a different class-assigned theme of “heroes,” she portrayed Bill W. and Bob Smith, co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous as two abstract figures with shattered glass all around them.
"The jagged triangles are made up almost entirely of images depicting alcoholic beverages or bottles,” she said. “I used a lot of movement in this area to symbolize the quick pace and destructive consumption that is addiction. My main goal was to really show the peace and growth that can still lie inside this disease, and I feel like I accurately represented this. Two humans are lost amongst the chaos, yet they are still human, and they can still heal.”
Two fairly adult topics from the interpretation of a 17-year-old artist.
Hail To The Rad Kids is an ongoing feature highlighting teens with artistic or musical talent.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org