Corn Masks

The art of weaving corn and grain stalks takes place across the world and the associated objects associated with land fertility, continuation of seasonal cycles and the spirit of the land. Corn Dollies are symbolic objects that were hung up in people’s houses over the Winter. There are accounts that the corn dollies were buried or ploughed back into the earth in Spring or fed to animals to ensure a good, new crop. Sometimes Corn Dollies are made from the last sheaf of wheat from the harvest which some people thought contained ‘the spirit’ of the crop. No one knows when people started weaving straw or relating this to harvest time.

Over the last 17 years I have made Corn Masks for exhibition and performance. Each mask is created in response to a different context and location. This work started after a period of Arts Council funded research in 2004-5 into genetic modification of crops and research into wheat and craft, ritual and activism.

2005 Four masks were made with three other artists for a performance performed outside the House of Parliament to coincide with a mass lobby of parliament around an early day motion on the coexistence of Genetically Modified and conventionally grown crops. With Friends of the Earth.

2013 Corn mask II commissioned by Castlefield Gallery for Spaceship Unbound exhibition using Maris Widgeon wheat.

2013 Corn Mask III, Maris Widgeon wheat, created during a week as artist in residence at Newlyn Gallery, Penzance. During the residency visitors were invited to join in conversation, watch footage of the 2005 performance, weave the corn and see the mask being created.

2016 Corn Mask IV Mask for a ritual/performance as part of A Field of Wheat, Branston Booth, Lincolnshire using JB Diego wheat.

Each Corn Mask is unique.  Once the masks are displayed and used in performance they are buried in the ground or burnt.  I am grateful for the support of Gillian Nott from The Guild of Strawcraftsmen and inspirational corn dolly maker Dorothy Horsfall (now deceased).

See also entries in Artists Pages in A Field of Wheat.