“I can spend a lot of time with objects, and they leave me

as satisfied as a good meal.

– Jim Dine

Decorating one’s face in various patterns and shapes has been a part of the cultural make-up of many societies since the beginning of time. The reason many tribes and indigenous peoples use face art to transform themselves may be varied. Sometimes they choose to do so as a part of a tribal ritual or at other times they do so to mark their status but the colorful and dynamic language of the face painting remains the same. The patterns can be color specific or randomly geometric seemingly without any significance. The shapes and colors convey a strong bond and meaning among people who have a face painting tradition. They are a connection to their past and carry a very strong cultural meaning in their lives.


In many ethnic tribes across the globe the color used has a specific meaning. Black is usually used to denote power, evil, death, and mystery while grey is commonly used to mean security, authority, maturity and stability. Purple commonly means royalty, luxury, wisdom, and passion and yellow is used for joy, energy and warmth. Red is used for danger, daring, urgency and energy and blue denotes peace, calmness, confidence and affection. Greens is usually used for life, growth, freshness and healing while white signifies hope, purity and light.


I wanted to explore the patterning and symbolic colors and change up my original theme of tool faces. I wanted to continue to use old tools, cigar boxes, metal bits and pieces and other laborer tools and vintage objects, but add other found objects like beads, feathers, paper, vintage jewelry, bottle caps and buttons and for the first-time use paint to bring in color.


All my work normally tells a story through the colors I use in my paper collages and these tribal faces are no different. Pulling reference and inspiration from tribal communities in the America’s, Europe and Africa, I wanted to create colorful expressions of pride and royalty while at the same time making a unique statement on revered women and men and their power.

© 2018 by Ryan LaLonde

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