The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

July 12, 2013

Who is that 'Man Behind the Mask?'

ENID, Okla. — Mike Sutherland has turned a work-break hobby into a promising art career in just a few years.

By day, he paints rigs for a drilling services company in Enid. By night, he’s the “Man Behind the Mask.”

The superhero-ish name is the title of his Facebook fan page, but he’s not so egocentric about his work. It’s on display and in some places, for sale, but Sutherland seems humble about his art.

“It’s not really about selling them, for me. I like to make them,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland was at work about four years ago, painting away and cutting off masking tape, when it came time for a break.

“I was kind of bored, sitting there playing with some tape, and I noticed it kind of looked like a shark,” he said. “So I went ahead and painted it like a shark and that’s how it grew from there.”

On his Facebook page, Sutherland recounts how, when he got home that night, his daughter thought the pinky-sized gray shark was “awesome.”

The artist believes he has improved considerably in the past year. Most of that is because he has ramped up production of the sculptures.

Since he began, Sutherland estimates he’s created 50 or 60 figures — most in the past year.

“The more I make, the more I figure stuff out. And I’ve kind of got to where I know how to make something,” he said.

Despite his knack for creating recognizable the images of Darth Vader, Leatherface, The Joker and others, Sutherland is not a trained sculptor. The nearest former skill he claims is being good at drawing.

“But not great,” he quickly added.

Sutherland’s artistic theme is part macabre, part pop culture. Nearly every one of his sculptures he posts on Facebook is recognizable from a movie or TV show, and often are on the creepy side of expression.

“My favorite thing to do is more creepy stuff,” he said. “Kiddy stuff is harder for me to do, if I’m not really into it.”

One of the hardest pieces he’s ever done is a replica of the University of Oklahoma Sooner Schooner, he said, adding that he’s not really a sports fan. Other, more technically difficult pieces have wire to keep the sculptures’ shape. He uses BBs for eyes.

As Sutherland continued making small sculptures while working at GEFCO in Enid, it was there that his hobby made another leap.

“I used to mess around and make some on break for my buddies at work. And they’d always tell me they’re really cool and I should try to sell them or something,” he said.

So he did.

The Man Behind the Mask has pieces for sale at Lola’s Boutique in Enid.

“Somebody I knew went in there one day and told her what I did,” Sutherland said. “She thought it was cool, I guess.”

His Darth Vader sculpture was on display at the stArt Gallery in Detroit for its “Star Wars”-themed review. Another local artist, the Enid Lego Builder, also had an entry there.

In May, Sutherland auctioned off a masking tape sculpture of Yoda for Moore tornado relief.

His wife, Jamie, said he simply can’t sit still.

“He likes the challenge. It drives him nuts if he has to sit there and not do anything,” said Jamie, whose image was even cast in masking tape alongside her husband, then placed atop the couple’s wedding cake.

To view more of Mike Sutherland’s masking tape art, search Facebook for “Man Behind the Mask” or check out his available pieces at Lola’s Boutique, 224 W. Randolph.

Go to EnidNews.com to view video of Mike Sutherland’s intensely detailed sculptures from the sticky medium.

Watch video of Mike Sutherland's intensely detailed sculptures from the sticky medium.

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