Conference Overview

This conference emerged from Felice Amato’s abiding interest in women’s experiences and the conditions of their lives globally as explored and expressed through the arts. She is particularly interested in embodied experiences and specifically how material performance, such as the use of masks, costumes, and puppets, illuminates aspects of the private and social body (and the symbiosis of the two). Amato developed her interest in the interplay of the materially constructed and female body in her dissertation work on women, dolls, and performance. Since then, she has gone on to include masks in her inquiries, having experienced their power to generate a sense of bewilderment at one’s taken-for-granted body when a mask is worn. The use of the mask as a lens or a frame for inquiry also provided new insights across a range of circumstances. The impulse to pull together a rich conversation that would cross multiple fields led Amato to propose this conference to the Boston University Center for the Humanities, which supported the proposal with a grant to initiate a series of events. The conference has since expanded to a series of four symposia. There is still a small team of organizers and modest funds. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm for the topic and the possibility of embracing the virtual moment to share ideas globally in real-time has allowed the conference to reach far and wide. The activities are free and open and designed to include a broad range of contributions to the topic through invitations and the call for submissions. Despite the virtual nature of the conference, efforts are being made to include a range of modalities that place the body at the center of the research and inspire cross-over between fields and practices. The conference intends to invite people into the topic by providing entry points into new experiences and frameworks. This inaugural conference cannot include every topic or represent even a fraction of cultures and circumstances. Hopefully, it will plant the seed for an ongoing conversation and generate new investigations into the theme of women and masks—and perhaps future conferences in which people can gather in person.

Read the conference abstract.

About the Conference Director

Felice Amato works at the intersection of the fields of visual arts, art education, and theater. She has a particular passion for puppetry, masks, and object performance, which integrate the body and the element of time into a narrative and cross the boundaries between disciplines. Amato is an Assistant Professor of Art Education at Boston University in the College of Fine Arts. In addition to teaching and research, Amato approaches scholarship through practice as an arts researcher. She has performed short works in various venues, including the Ballard Institute at U-CONN and Open Eye Figure Theater in Minneapolis. She has received numerous awards for her artistic work, including a Jerome Foundation grant and two Minnesota State Arts Board grants. She has published in Puppetry International and the Journal of Mother Studies and presented at a2ru (The Alliance for the Arts at Research Universities), USSEA (United States Society for Education through Art), NAEA (the National Art Educators Association), the CAA (College Arts Association), and Puppeteers of America. Amato currently serves on the Board of UNIMA-USA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette). Her interest in puppets and masks and their connection to the female body, as well as her focus on using object performance to explore the abstract and the theoretical, developed during her doctoral work at UW-Madison, where she began working at the intersection of creative investigation and scholarship through arts-based and embodied research methods. She was chosen as an emerging artist for the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Puppetry Conference in 2018, where she created a puppet piece based on Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 work, The Second Sex. Last year, Amato convened a panel at the College Art Association entitled “Unmasking Complexities: The Mask in Global Contemporary Art,” which laid the grounds for proposing this year’s conference.