A watercolor painting of a heterosexual couple wearing masks

Watercolor painting, CA


David Schoffman

Collecting Community History Initiative Digital Archives, Autry Museum; MSA.64.1.161

“Masks—the most basic and most primitive prophylactic—coupled with the ubiquity of computer devices, have become the twin screens with which we deal with our confinement. I’m trying to slowly record it all with water.”

Masks and the Formation of Identity

In the early months of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks would soon become vital both for survival and reducing the transmission of the virus. They soon became important as well to identity formation and the assertion of agency, conveying through art and words the thoughts and actions of people to express their individual power.

People across the West began to wear face masks—whether handmade or store-bought—that helped them find connectivity, solidarity, and levity during the restrictions engendered by a global pandemic.

The face masks below provide glimpses into how individuals—and their communities—responded.

Land Acknowledgment

The Autry Museum of the American West acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). We recognize that the Autry Museum and its campuses are located on the traditional lands of Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

The Autry Museum in Griffith Park

4700 Western Heritage Way

Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462
Located northeast of downtown, across from the Los Angeles Zoo.
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