A Universal Feeling

A collaborative installation by 62 international artists

When and Where to View

This installation is currently between exhibitions. Check back soon.

A Universal Feeling premiered on November 5, 2019, at the Chehalem Cultural Center as a part of Reveal / Conceal, an exhibit of my mask work from the last 20 years. It continued in late summer of 2022 at The Historic Alberta House in Portland, Oregon.


INTERVIEW: Think Out Loud with Dave Miller on OPB – Sept. 2, 2022
REVIEW: “Tony Fuemmeler and the masks of life”, by Bob Hicks. Oregon ArtsWatch- Sept. 2, 2022
REVIEW: “The Medium is the Mask”, by David Bates. Oregon ArtsWatch – Nov. 27, 2019

The Project

I created a set of mask forms inspired by the six emotions whose expressions are theorized to be universally understood: Fear, Joy, Surprise, Anger, Sadness, and Disgust. Each of my sixty-two collaborators received an unpainted papier-mâché mask based on one of the six.

Collaborators were then tasked with “completing” this mask, in their own way. Art form, identity, style, experiences, history, aesthetic, nationality, and culture(s) were all explicitly invited to inform HOW they did so.

When they finished, they each shipped me their completed piece. These masks were then installed around other reactions to the initial unfinished mask of the emotion they received.

Click Here for a full list of collaborating artists

Universal Emotional Expressions?

In the 1960’s, a group of research psychologists including Paul Ekman put forward the idea that there were a set of facial expressions/emotions that were universally and consistently understood across all human cultures: fear, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and disgust.

Whether you’ve heard this articulated before or not, this idea has made its way into our lives. Omnipresent in messaging apps are emoji with essentialized expressions frequently utilized to quickly convey a feeling. I recently discovered there’s even an app for representing various emotions based on these studies. I think I first heard about it in theatre training, where masks of these emotions are sometimes used to explore these emotional states through the actor’s bodily expression and breath.

This set of emotions have also been explored by visual artists in many media. In his book Making Comics, Scott McCloud builds on the research of Ekman and also on the work of Gary Faigin to further explore how these basic emotions combine to form more complex expressions. I am indebted to all of them.

Who’s involved?

This project aims to see how the universal is particularized, so I have included a wide net of disciplines, spanning the visual and performing arts. I want to be surprised by the results of the collaboration.


I began by thinking of all the artists I know from my personal life, my studies, and my work abroad. Accordingly, this list includes friends, colleagues, teachers, and former collaborators whose work I find compelling. Similarly, attention was paid to representing a balance of ages, sexes, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, ethnicities, and current nations-of-residence.


This is a large scale project, and it would be impossible to make it happen without the help of grants and support from the community. Thank you to everyone who has contributed!!