The Mask January 2010

by Lydia Linton Pontius

The mask appeared magical. On some level it seemed to speak to me in an almost mesmerizing way as I gazed into it, on the door of Ak-Nah Galería in Akumal. This is a wooden mask that Richard Mazzola purchased from a local artist at Chichén Itzá. Intrigued by the colors, design and figures that represent important symbols of an ancient culture and ceremonial wear of a warrior, Richard was also drawn to this piece, but at the time he purchased it he had no idea just what kind of effect it would have on him in the longer term.

The mask became not only a prized possession of Richard and Cami's but an inspiration for a series of pieces he would create in a variety of mediums and styles. Richard refers to them as the "stages of the mask."

The first stage was several realistic paintings of the mask.

The second stage of realistic paintings became nudes with the mask. The Male and His Mask tells the story of a warrior who dies and the woman he left behind; it represents his status as a warrior. Then next is Fallen Warrior and is a nude of a woman deep in thought of the man she lost.

The third stage is surrealism, playing on some of the previous paintings but in a totally different style and approach.

Richard took his paintings of the mask to a fourth stage, which is the abstract interpretation of the mask. Having delved into four distinct types of paintings, he moved onto a fifth stage and introduced a three-dimensional approach through ceramics.

The first series of this stage was jewelry and then he moved to larger pieces of ceramics that require you to study them to see the intricate work. One has seven women woven in. The next was three parrots and a face. The third has five faces morphed around the mask, and the last is a man with the mask.

All of these stages and pieces are bold and dramatic, and inspire an emotional reaction to them, but Richard wasn't finished. The sixth stage combined all the previous stages. It is sculpture-meets-painting. Richard took Styrofoam, sculpted it and laminated it onto a canvas to create an new approach to three-dimensional, unique masterpieces.

I recommend that on your next visit to Akumal you take a moment to wander through this exquisite gallery and see the multitude of works that the mask inspired. We are certain that you will find one that speaks directly to you. And I hope you are as captivated and moved as I was by this incredibly versatile and talented artist. Akumal is extremely fortunate that Richard and Cami call it home.

Be sure to mention Sac-Be when you visit Ak Nah Galeria and you will receive a 10% discount on your purchase. To see more of Richard's work, please visit his site,