Signature Gallery Downstairs



In the early 1900s, to protect individuals and save lives, face masks and gas masks became widely worn during the chemical warfare of World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic. Although we as a society have progressed over the last 100 years, we find history repeating itself. Today, we are challenged with the COVID-19 pandemic and the effort to save lives has become a focus once again. Face masks are not only a necessity; they’ve become trendy and fashionable, a statement of an individual’s personality. In contrast, the gas mask has always appeared misshapen and an unappealing fashion accessory. We respond to it with fear and revulsion.

Bombshell: Masquerading Warfare visually surprises viewers with its rebellious, unconventional, and elegant creations of gas masks. Avant-garde couture designer Ben Van Beusekom disrupts our perceptions and evokes beauty where once there was horror. In a world filled with chaos, his love of fantasy transforms these apocalyptic protectors into elaborate headpieces designed to titillate the senses. The exhibit highlights these glamourized saviors and recognizes the importance they have played throughout history by adorning them with texture, vivid color, and dazzling bejeweling. Visitors will leave the exhibit with a new appreciation for these stark objects that have morphed into magnificent fabrications.

For a behind-the-scenes look inside the artist’s studio, follow Ben Van Beusekom on Instagram @BenVanBeusekomArt, or visit Bombshell: Masquerading Warfare is presented by the Global Peace Film Festival and is produced by Larimer & Co. Branding Studios. This exhibition is funded in part by Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs and United Arts of Central Florida and is made possible with the generous support of the Downtown Arts District and CityArts with special thanks to ForeFront Productions.