The Cloverdale History Center and Museum’s newest exhibit, Dozens of Cousins, seeks to display how art can reflect different cultures. Dozens of Cousins centers around a series of masks from around the world collected by Cloverdale resident and museum curator Marge Gray and her late husband Jim.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to bring in their children, because it shows what people look like all over the world,” Gray said. “We do have younger grades coming in this year, and I’m hoping that we can show them some interesting faces and see how they respond.”
The idea to display the masks came about when Gray was trying to think of a new display for the history center’s exhibit space.
“I’ve been a member of the history center for 35 years, and part of the things that I’ve done are the exhibits,” she said.
After plans for a different exhibit fell through, she was at a loss.
“I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’
I was telling a friend, and he said, ‘Well, why don’t you use your own masks?’”
So, Gray gathered up a collection of some of the masks she had amassed over the years and began putting together Dozens of Cousins.
“My husband and I collected some ourselves. A lot of them were gifts from people who traveled all around the world.” A couple are from her nephew, who brought them back from his travels in Asia.
The different masks are showcased in four different display cases, based on origin, she said. One display case boasts only masks from Mexico, while two show off masks from Africa. Once case shows masks from other locations, such as China or the South Pacific.
Only one mask is not contained within a case — a large mask carved by Jim, which sits on a turntable so museumgoers can look at the 12 faces carved into the piece of walnut wood. The piece, titled “Dozens of Cousins,” is also the namesake for the exhibit.
“My husband was trained as a sculptor, and he worked in wood and other materials like paper mache, but he carved wood faces on things and figures,” Gray said. “He was just really interested in faces.”
To accompany the masks, Gray also brought in books that correlate to masks from different regions to sit alongside the display.
While Gray couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason why she and her husband were drawn to collecting masks, she said that she finds them interesting because of the “different kinds of ways that people put faces together.”
“They’re not all wearable masks — some people made masks for storytelling,” she said. “They weren’t necessarily masks that people wore.”
The Cloverdale History Center and Museum is located at 215 N. Cloverdale Blvd. It’s open on Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Marge Gray works as a docent on Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. The exhibit has no end date, but Gray said that she expects it to be up for the next three to four months.