Dawn Black examines the practice of masquerade and its role in relation to conceptions of identity and power by depicting scenes of figures meticulously drawn in gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper. The figures in her work are selected from various sources, societies, and time periods and are composed to create a tableaux influenced by the ideas of James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and mythmaking in general. Campbell’s monomyth is a myth that is found through out the world, familiar to all (as in the hero myth) but with slight cultural/regional nuances. She finds monomyths compelling in that they can bring understanding to viewers unfamiliar with other cultural norms. Her work does not illustrate any specific myth but seeks to provoke critical thought regarding current attitudes and conflicts within the terms of universal stories.
She is particularly interested in the various permutations of societal practices that engender power hierarchies. The religious and ethnic nuances of power — who are the meek, who are the shameless, and when do the roles interchange? Societal practices of masquerade, uniforms, religious dress, etcetera muddle conceptions of power and identity. It is provoking how a disguise (even a uniform) engenders the wearer powerful through his or her clandestine anonymity. Even more disturbing is the disguise’s paradoxical virtue of allowing the concealed individual to be his or her authentic self. Which identity is authentic, the intrinsic self or the identity acquired through masquerade or do they create a third identity through a blending of the two?