Artist:John H. Livingston
Medium: Cedar wood, pigment, hair
Dimensions: 11 5/8 x 7 1/2 x 8 1/8 in. (29.5 x 19.1 x 20.6 cm)
Museum Location: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
Accession Number: 1996.203
Catalogue Description: This mask represents Bak’was , a malevolent ghostly spirit, the keeper of drowned souls. He can cause loss of reason and sanity and lures those seeking escape into the night woods with a faint firelight where they experience madness, loss of a sense of right and wrong and lose balance and harmony with the world. Victims may survive by finding minimal sustenance on the forest floor or in the intertidal region. As a spirit, although diminutive, he can stride four times the average man. He has a green, hairy body and a skeletal visage. Souls of those drawn into the forest by him or who eat food he offers are lost forever and become part of his ghostly retinue. A soul could possibly be saved by subduing it with menstrual blood. John Livingston (b. 1951) is an adopted Kwakwaka'wakw carver. He became closely involved with master carvers Henry Hunt and Tony Hunt in the 1970s who gave him permission to carve masks and poles. This particular mask is his version of a wild man mask with deeply attenuated carving outlining the mouth and eyes. Painted in traditional colors of black and red.