Magnhild Kennedy’s masks are perhaps more accurately described as wearable sculptures than they are items of clothing. The Norwegian artist’s ornate creations, with their intricate beadwork and exquisite rhinestones, fuse the boundaries between fashion and design. “When I first moved to London in 2007 I’d go clubbing a lot and would make outfits for various nights out. I guess the format just stuck,” Magnhild, otherwise known as Damselfrau, tells us. “But I’m not particularly interested in masks as a genre or creative discipline. I’m coming at it from a fine art perspective, similar to the creative processes involved when constructing art installations or designing furniture.”
Lace, ribbon, sequins and antique clothes are Magnhild’s main artistic resources. Her fantastical masks are not only fit for the display cabinets of an exhibition, they are also items through which Magnhild can recycle and reuse the objects and materials she has acquired over the years. “I don’t design or draw beforehand,” the artist explains. “I pin sketches on mannequin heads and sew from there. I am self taught and create my masks using basic sewing and beading techniques.” It is, she says, the materials that guide the creative process and determine the final outcome. Magnhild’s creative reimagining of found objects and loose scraps is a testament to the creative possibility of commonplace items.
When asked where she turns for inspiration, Magnhild replies: “Everywhere and nowhere. I watch a lot of films while I work: big costume dramas, high energy action, documantaries. Sci-fi and fantasy are probably my two most-watched genres of film. If I find something I particularly like, I’ll watch it back-to-back several times throughout a working day.” Magnhild also scours the internet – mainly Tumblr and Instagram – for additional ideas. These can come from images of architecture, animals, fashion, nature and food. There is no formula for Magnhild to follow, and that is perhaps precisely why her masks are undeniably unique.
“In the beginning I’d use a lot of second hand, used material,” the mask-maker says. “Now I’ll use anything. London has fantastic fabric shops. I go to car boot sales and thrift stores and hunt for materials on eBay and Instagram, as well. The right materials will seek me out and speak to me from within a larger bundle of fabric. It’s really just a lot of ‘feeling’ my way through stuff. I’m not a perfectionist, but I do spend a lot of time and work on the details.”
Magnhild’s mask-making first began in 2008, when she started creating what she calls “lacy little numbers, classic ‘sexy time’-type masks”. Since then, Magnhild’s creative endeavours have taken off: from exhibiting works in fashion-themed art shows to creating masks for music performers like MØ and Baloji. Her future, too, looks as bright as her perfectly adorned masks. With her first solo exhibition opening this September at Trondheim’s National Museum of Decorative Arts, Magnhild promises to continue producing her fetishistic masterpieces.