Dec15–Feb15 2017, Studio Vendome, Sensory Abstraction: Model as Medium, a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Linda Mason.
The series of wooden panels included in Model as Medium are representative of 12 years of work: some being the first of their kind, some produced exclusively for this exhibition. These works involve a layered process, beginning with the subject of the portrait itself. Mason will apply makeup and dress her model to be photographed, the result of which is often digitally manipulated, and applied to the wooden panels. Mason then applies paint to the portrait, in the vivid palate that characterizes her work, and, finally, a resin is applied. Seamlessly combining her techniques, these works achieve a textural complexity, calling upon the viewer to question the line between the photographic image and the artist’s hand. Many of these works include yet another process, which Mason had initially began exploring through her photography and film: the act of painting directly onto her subject. In the vivid range of colors that pervades her artistic work, she uses thick, wet brushstrokes on the face and body. These acts transform her subjects, and the surface of the skin becomes a living canvas subordinated to paint and color.
Mason’s ultimate goal is bring out each subject’s individuality and personal strengths through this physical transformation. The process of directing her subject, their movements and placement of color, is inherent to the work. Two short films, to be premiered at Studio Vendome, allow the viewer an insight into Mason’s unique practice and the close relationships she forms with her models, and the obscurity she achieves between photography and painting, art and fashion, and the figurative and the abstract. Two new mixed media works will also be on view, which merge video with her resin coated panels for the first time.
A Day At The Beach
‘A Day At The Beach’, a multi-media Installation, “The National Glass Centre “ museum Sunderland, England, July 11th – October 4th 2015.
Throughout her lifetime of globe-trotting, the Sunderland seafront stayed with Mason as the site of her happiest childhood memories, the root of her connection to the natural world, and as her original artistic inspiration. When the National Glass Centre opened, she saw an opportunity to go back to this source and to share the sense of wonder and creative possibility. She knew that engaging local children in the act of learning through play would be the best path to breaking down the barriers between high culture of the Centre and the working class community of Sunderland, and to re-connecting the artifice of glass-making to its origins in the primal elements of water and sand. As it happened, the Centre was embarking on research in application of 3-D scanning and printing technology to glass, and Mason immediately saw the potential for a mutually beneficial interdisciplinary relationship: technical research + site-specific art installation + community involvement.
The spark of inspiration came to Mason during a trip to the beach with Fulwell Juniors School children for a sandcastle-building competition, in July of 2014. She was amazed by the originality and the variety of castles, by ingenuity the children brought to solving engineering problems that were new to them, and by the uninhibited delight with which they tackled the project. From this, came the idea for the project centerpiece as something that the people of Sunderland can call their own and will always return to: a large-scale version of the most interesting castle, cast in glass, to be installed permanently in the Glass Centre, as an anchor amid ever-changing exhibitions. On a more practical level, new digital technologies would allow the Centre to fabricate and sell multiples of castle parts and other small-scale glass pieces.
While Mason is hoping to realize these ideas in the future, the parameters of the current exhibition – both the available space and the limits of the research grant – called for a different sort of installation. The young castle-builders were brought into the Centre by Mason to experiment in translating their creativity into clay and glass and to help shape the exhibition. At the same time, Mason worked with the Centre resident artists Effie Burns and Erin Dickson to create 3-D printed pieces and an installation of large-scale glass pieces that have been waterjet-cut, and hand-painted by Mason with images inspired by ‘A Day At the Beach’. A believer in serendipitous and often unpredictable nature of the artistic process, Mason feels that the resulting exhibition has achieved her main goals: an exploration of interplay between the natural and the man-made, an inquiry into the impact of digital technology on art, the experience of child’s-play aspects of creativity, and the involvement of the Sunderland community. She hopes that the exhibit will get a chance to travel, either in parts or as a whole, and that in the future she will get an opportunity to realize some of her other ideas for the Centre.
When Linda did these photos of the young women around her in 2008, and called the show “Gone,” it was prophetic. They are gone. Gone from her life, not entirely, but at that time they were around her constantly. They were her muses, her butterfly collection. Then they grew, and moved on, or were caught by something or someone else. Amy, Sarah, Natalie, Sam, Alice. Friends of her daughter, or friends of friends, models, or just people who walk into her workshop and stayed for a while. They helped each other grow and had fun in the process.
Visitors to the Seafront
Mason’s mixed media collage work is inspired by her childhood in Sunderland, in the UK, and her vacations in the village of Whitburn. She blends her photos and painting with materials found and created in her hometown to craft intricate vignettes that not only symbolize various moments of her childhood, but also connect the similarities between her early years and her life at the present. This exhibit was shown at The National Glass Center in Sunderland, England 2010.
“Spring Masquerade” 2010, was a collaboration of artist Linda Mason, designer and artisan Luis Rivera Tores, and decorator and designer Cleve Crosby. In celebration of spring, the works in this show focus on the theme of the mask, inspired by those handcrafted by Tores, and the performative, ceremonial nature of the masquerade.
Springtime is a period of beauty, growth, renewal, and transformation. Similarly, the mask perpetuates this transformative quality, as its expressive power resides in its ability to alter the appearance of the wearer. But the mask, of which there is a long and extensive history stemming from ritual and theater, contains various implications and layers of meaning. Beyond its decorative use, it may serve as a disguise, as a form of concealment, or for the purpose of protection. Here, Tores’ elaborate and intricately crafted masks are the basis for the show’s exploration of the mystery and drama inherent to the mask in a wider context.
Central to the exhibition are new photography and mixed media works by Linda Mason. Incorporating Tores’ masks into her constantly evolving practice of body painting, Mason presents both an exaggeration and denial of the flesh by applying thick, painterly strokes of vivid color on the nude form. Her works present a dichotomy of exhibitionist display and illusioned concealment, using both her subject and medium in a continuous play to challenge the viewer’s notions of perception.
In her 2011 “Ageless” series, Linda Mason uses body paint to defy the signals of aging. In the vivid range of colors that pervades her artistic work, she uses thick, wet brushstrokes on the face and body. These acts transform her subjects, in this case, women over forty, and the surface of the skin becomes a living canvas subordinated to paint and color. Markers of age, exaggerated by our youth-obsessed society, lose their potency behind the mask of the paint.
At the same time, the energy of Mason’s models defies their own age as much as the paint. Mason has worked with many of these women (celebrities in their own right) in the past in the fashion industry. In her “Ageless” photographs, the same drive and motivation that existed within these women twenty years ago is still present. Mason concentrates on this inner fire while negating the importance of age, replacing exterior signs with heavy, vibrant strokes of color. “Ageless” can be seen as a reflection of Mason’s familiarity with the world of fashion, not only in terms of her aesthetic, but also in her invalidation of the conventions of the industry.