lucha

Like many artists, Los Angeles-based Sophia Allison started out painting portraits. But a fascination with WWE wrestling eventually led this painter down a far more unconventional path.

Starting with a wrestling mask she already owned, she says, “I turned the mask inside out and studied how it was put together. I created a rough pattern, and worked off of that to create the pieces for my first homemade mask.”

Allison’s interest in wrestling led her to lucha libre, Mexico’s version of the sport, which relies heavily on the power of masks to alter and transform the identities of los luchadores. Still, something was missing.

“I was disheartened that there weren’t many well-recognized female wrestlers — those that were known in American wrestling were seen primarily as sex symbols,” she says. “This sparked my interest in creating masks and capes that fit me, and these sort of became alter egos.”

So how does a painter learn to design and stitch sculptures that double as wearable art? (Witness her chic, pink wrestling ensemble with intricate embroidery and interior padding stitched from individual maxi pads.) In 2002, Allison bought a sewing machine and taught herself to sew.

Since then she’s created a whole retinue of alter egos, made from domestic or recycled materials found around the house. Band-Aids, shoelaces, and various felts and fabrics have found their way into her work. One cape is hand-sewn from used tea bags, while some tough-looking headgear is crafted from deconstructed Converse basketball shoes.

A vermilion felt mask, dripping with shimmering pink threads, packs a punch. A flesh-toned, tapestry-and-nylon mask has an eerily menacing appearance, part ghost and part hosiery-horror-show.

Although Allison’s imaginatively feminine wrestling attire hasn’t yet entered the ring, it provides endless possibilities to transform the contemporary Everywoman into an explosive domestic diva — Supergirl, beware.

Luchadora Masks: sophiaallison.com/maskindex.html