Valley man creates works of art with masks

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The success of "The Masked Singer" on FOX shows people love a good surprise.

Meanwhile, in the Valley, a man has dedicated his life to sculpting the disguises that make up festivals and shows.

It's been said that when you give someone a mask - they'll tell you the truth. The fronts that people put on allow for protection, for transformation, and often for fun.

Perhaps no one understands this better than Zarco Guerrero.

"The person wearing the mask metaphorically, or literally, disappears, and assumes another character," said Guerrero. "So, there's that power right there, element of surprise, theatrical element."

Guerrero has been making masks for most of his life. The master mask maker learned the craft originally in Mexico, and studied in Japan and Indonesia.

"In Mexico, the masks are made spontaneously, with a lot of creativity, a lot of expression, a lot of direction is left to the artist to take the theme wherever he wants to go," said Guerrero. "Whereas in Japan, they work under very strict ancient doctrines that were part of the samurai tradition."

Guerrero's workshop in Mesa showcases a lifetime of creativity. The details that go into every one of his Zarkmasks mirror the details of life around us.

"I'm fascinated with the range of human expression," said Guerrero. "All the ranges of emotion, laughter, agony, defeat, depression, nirvana. I just love the fact that the face can express all these profound human emotions."

Once someone dons one of the detailed disguises, it's time to perform. It's something Guerrero loves to do, and will be featured prominently at an upcoming Mesa festival

"These are the cukooies," said Guerrero. "They represent kind of like the boogeyman. They're more clowns than anything else, but they have this posturing of being menacing and aggressive in a silly kind of way."

Each mask has a story to tell. Sometimes political, sometimes mythical, but almost always beautiful in its own way. His art has been the source of plenty of inspiration in the Valley.

"The ones, making themselves, it's a lot of symmetry, it's relaxing," said Guerrero. "I've always wanted to get into pottery, this is similar."

Along with Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivals around Arizona, Guerrero's work has been featured around the globe, and his passion for art won't be going away anytime soon.

"I'm realizing it's endless," said Guerrero. "There's no end to the variety of expressions that the face is capable of."

The Mask Alive Festival at Pioneer Park in Mesa will feature Guerrero's work on March 24.