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‘MASKED’ gallery spooks North Bennington train station By Makayla McGeeney

NORTH BENNINGTON — Hanging paper monsters swung in circles from the ceiling fan at the opening of the “MASKED” gallery at the North Bennington Train Station on Sunday.

The show intends to celebrate masks and other disguises, in time for Halloween. More than 10 artists’ work is displayed and ranges from new and old, paintings, paper mache structures, cloth or plastic masks and reconstructed dolls. Rhonda Ratray spearheaded the gallery.

Other local artists include Jill Van Orden, Matthew Marks, Ron Van Orden, Eve Pearce, Maggie Pesce, Alicia B. Best, E.Bay and Madalyn Olson. Some pieces are for sale while others are on loan from private collections. “MASKED” is open until Nov. 5 and will be available for viewing during the 24th annual Halloween Parade on Oct. 31.

Trick-or-treaters and superheros veiling their identity to protect themselves or their family is the motive behind the featured masks, Ratray said. Spider Man, for example, was a superhero, but his family and loved ones were targeted by the bad guys, even though he fought to keep his character concealed.

Ratray contributed a few paintings from a gallery she participated in, “Dark Knight Nightmares” surrounding the superhero Batman.

Halloween masks date back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, according to Enlighten Me. It was a celebration to acknowledge the end of summer and the start of cold weather and the darkness of winter. During this transition period, the Celts believed that spirits could pass through the living world and traumatize people. To curb this, people dressed up in costumes and scary masks to keep the spirits from knowing people’s identities.

Other history regards masquerade balls during the Renaissance period in Italy. However, instead of warding off evil spirits, masks were worn as a class system to hide the identities of members of the upper class. The masks were also more lavish and blanketed in jewels and gold.

Olson contributed two dolls inspired by Frida Kahlo, a painter from Mexico during the early 1900s. The two dolls’ faces were reconstructed by a dremel, Olson said. One reflected characteristics from Kahlo’s “The Wounded Deer” in which there’s an arrow through the doll’s heart. The other is supposed to resemble one of Kahlo’s self-portraits. The doll wears a mask with a hummingbird on it.

“She’s my favorite,” Olson said. “[Her work] inspires me. Landscapes aren’t usually my style. I did a lot of self-portraits in high school.”

For more information contact the Vermont Arts Exchange at 802-442-5549.

Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.

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