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In New Orleans, Everyone Wears A Mask

By Andrew Belonsky

One could spend their entire vacation exploring New Orleans' museums. The city's home to The World War II Museum, the Ogden Museum, the McKenna Museum of African American Art and the five-acre Besthoff Culture Garden, where you can view Henry Moore and George Rickey's works under New Orleans' beloved oaks. And, as Mad Men actor Bryan Batt mentioned in his New Orleans travel tips, there are dozens and dozens of excellent galleries in the Big Easy.

Of all the upcoming shows and exhibits we perused, though, one stood out, Brilliant Disguise: Masks and Other Transformations, a collaborative show being put up by the Contemporary Arts Center and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

New Orleans' identity is of course tied up in masks and alternate identities. No one's who they appear to be during Mardi Gras, a bacchanal binge before the purge of Lent. Masks in this case add anonymity to the revelry, giving party-goers a layer of protection. But disguises aren't always about concealing or altering identities a night on the town. In some places, masks channel other people in other worlds. The Yoruba people of Nigeria see masks as a connection between the living and the dead. And then there are the masks we're made to wear, like race, a topic addressed in Clementine Hunter's "Masked Face."

"Brilliant Disguise," running from March 8 until June 16, examines these and many other forms of masquerade. Though the show doesn't open for a few weeks, CAC/NOMA are allowing us to run a slideshow that gives you a look at what you can see in person at the museum.




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