The Masks of Vincent Cantillon
Vincent Cantillon blends art nouveau with tribal aesthetics to create one-of-a-kind gothic adornments. Each one contains worlds of possibilities.
The human mind is hardwired to see faces in everything. We see eyes and noses where there are none: in bark, clouds, and fallen snow. Perhaps this is why Vincent Cantillon’s masks are so striking. A face can shift from being the object of our obsessions to a vehicle for lavish personal adornment.
Working from Denver, Colorado, Vincent began making Halloween masks out of latex for a costume company in the early years of the millennium. After designing zombie and monster faces for a living, he was introduced to leather mask-making by a friend around 2006, and it was love at first sight. “I liked the way the leather could be shaped into forms that weren’t possible with latex masks,” Vincent says, and has gone forward with no regrets.
Looking over his collection, familiar gothic accoutrements abound. Black leather, folded, cut, and pierced with accents of gears, coins, feathers, and paint mix with flares of deep reds, rich greens, and spectral white. The Jawbone Headdress is built using an entire deer’s jawbone as a frame and includes other unusual elements like a pair of turkey feet which vignette a snipped-down, eye-like peacock feather. Not surprisingly, it adds about a foot of height to the wearer. The only way to describe it is tribal-gothic.
“I like to think of my style as tribal-gothic, which fit together well because of their indulgence in personal adornment, like piercings and tattoos, and the wearing of bones, feathers and metal pieces.” Many such elements are mainstays in gothic culture, albeit generally spread out over the body and not concentrated so intensely around the face. Very few goths exist that have not yet been seduced by something skeletal. Skulls and other bones, or anatomically correct hearts and organs seduce us easily, and fit so well into an outfit or home décor. Really, it is a natural progression to find a way to fit a real skull to highlight one’s own skull, or to find a creative way to pack more metal onto one’s body. As a species, we have been doing it across hundreds of unrelated cultures since the ancient times. When asked about the correlation between goth culture and ancient tribes, Vincent becomes passionate. “This tradition of body art is being kept alive by people like punk rockers and goths, they make it part of their lifestyle and wear it proudly even though it goes against mainstream society, but we need to keep pushing it until the 'freaks' are the mainstream.” Words to remember.
As followers of the tribal movement know well, music and dance is a major part of not only cultural unity, but social bonding and individual happiness. Goths know this equally well; there’s a reason why we converge at the night club to move to the music we love, and it has less to do with getting intoxicated and more to do with performing a cultural rite. This is principally where Vincent goes for new inspiration. Through trips to the library, and more specifically, the history section, records of African, Native American, Mayan, and even Aztec ceremonial designs become sketches for modern adornment.