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The Masks Grow To Us
Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985)
1947, printed 1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 32.7 x 26.3 cm (12 7/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Frame: 62.5 x 52.4 cm (24 5/8 x 20 5/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.
Not on view
Laughlin, who lived and worked in New Orleans, infused the dreamlike idiom of Surrealism with a mordant Southern gothic sensibility. This picture belongs to his largest and most provocative series of photographs, “Poems of the Interior World,” which he began in fall 1939. An aspiring writer, Laughlin considered his captions to be integral to his works. About this one, he wrote:
In our society, most of us wear protective masks (psychological ones) of various kinds and for various reasons. Very often the end result is that the masks grow to us, displacing our original characters with our assumed characters. This process is indicated in visual, and symbolic, terms here by several exposures on one negative—the disturbing factor being that the mask is like the girl herself, grown harder and more superficial.