Thursday, February 15, 2007

Face saving art

An interesting New Zealand connection to a strange and marvellous art form is described in the Smithsonian Magazine. New Zealander Sir Harold Gillies pioneered the art of facial reconstruction and plastic surgery during and after World War I. Helping Gillies was Kathleen Scott, sculptor and (another NZ connection) the widow of Scott of Antarctica. She declared that "men without noses are very beautiful, like antique marbles."

Working alongside Gillies were two artists Francis Derwent Wood and Anna Coleman Ladd. They created paper-thin metallic masks for those men who even Gillies’s skills could not transform. "My work begins where the work of the surgeon is completed," said Wood. Some of the extraordinary masks Wood and Ladd created can be seen on the Smithsonian site.

Images: Top, preparing masks. Bottom left one of Ladd’s assistants helping attach a mask. Bottom right A masked soldier.