To Dream the Myth Forward--essay for 'Mask, Unmask'


           In ¡°Mask, Unmask,¡± the artist works intuitively to create intriguing and emotive

          images that resonate with symbolic meaning, using historic Hahoe masks in

          modern stage scenes from her own imagination.


          Based on the unique construction of the masks and the skillful acting of the

          performers, each mask reflects attributes of differing emotions. Understanding

          the complexity of human emotions, she captures the continuity of both positive

          and negative personality traits and the realities of the human condition.


          The power and energy of these photographs balance on the duality between

          reality and illusion; this concept has been critical to photographic discourse

          since its beginnings. As viewers, we willingly suspend our disbelief in order to

          accept what the artist is attempting to communicate.


          The concept of archetypes and the collective unconscious of Swiss psychoanalyst

          Carl Jung are relevant to the artist¡¯s ¡°Mask, Unmask¡±¡± series. The ¡°shadow is

          an important Jungian archetype, described as both the whole unconscious and

          the unlived part of the personality. Made up of both personal and collective

          elements, shadows are a compelling symbol for the unconscious in that they

          appear to have substance, yet they remain elusive and illusive.


          When the public and shadow elements of the self are combined, an individual

          becomes a total, fully actualized person. Creating these photographs represents

          part the artist¡¯s personal journey toward self-realization. Out of the creative

          struggle between idea and image, Monica Cheon has developed a distinctive

          and lyrical voice. The work signifies the archetypal and speaks about universal

          feelings and experiences. Because the masks are archetypes -- universal symbols

          that are not bound by a specific culture, time or space -- she creates highly

          charged images that allow us to respond with deep emotional recognition.


          Carl Jung wrote of the obligation of each generation ¡°to dream the myth forward¡±

          by filling the archetypal structure with content relevant to our lives. This artist

           ¡°dreams the myth forward¡± by giving modern form to the historic Hanhoe masks

          and reflecting our contemporary times.


          Jean Caslin

          Caslin Gregory & Associates

          Houston, Texas, U.S.A.