I first met Vasile Şuşcă in May 2009, at a traditional festival in the Hoteni village. I had known him and his his masks from pictures; even so, it was hard to recognize him: his rich, proverbial mustache wasn’t there anymore. Less than a month later, I paid him a visit inside his artistic den, a former grain millhouse abutting a river bed by now dried out for more than a couple of decades.
As my wife and I entered his main room, cramped with textiles, masks, paintings and a myriad of other things, he apologized for the disorder. I remember telling him that had it been orderly, something would have seemed amiss. He laughed and then we sat down and talked for almost three hours.
A precocious artist, who discovered painting in his 5th grade, Şuşcă had to abandon his first love, painting, after attending the local art high-school for just one year, hit by a disease. He would later finish another school, of tailoring, and practice it for almost two decades. It was only late, just after the ’89 revolution, that Şuşcă started to gain his well-deserved fame. Encouraged by the head of Art School in Sighetu Marmaţiei and also a close friend to get back to his artistic roots, Şuşcă started making his first masks, which were first sold in the town’s local art store. Less than a decade later, Şuşcă was a renowned artist whose imaginative, grotesque devilish masks have become an authentic symbol of the art of Maramureş.
It is much more than masks or paintings to Vasile Șușcă‘s person. His creative spirit restlessly explores new artistic ideas and mediums; no matter what his artistic choice is, all he creates bear his personal, playful and imaginative vision. Even his sharp wit and hilarious, joyful talk, littered with funny recounts of personal experiences reflects this. Listnening to it, I felt blessed to be Romanian and to be able to savor it all, in the beautiful local accent.
For more photos of Vasile Șușcă and his work, visit The Artists section of the website.