Featured Artist | Terry Mason

Cover Plate #2

This week, sculptor Terry Mason shared thoughts on his work in a Q&A with Gallery Director Hannah Reeves. Mason’s work, a delightful hybrid of the notion of “found object” and a masterful depiction of the human figure (in parts), is featured in the June Exhibit, which runs through the 30th.

HANNAH REEVES: Tell us about becoming a sculptor. Was there a natural progression from more traditional figurative work to the type of work you make now

TERRY MASON: I don’t see my work as a progression from traditional figurative work. When I first got excited about sculpture, I was learning about artists Chris Burden, Charles Ray, Vito Acconci and Cindy Sherman. There was a performative and forceful aspect that I saw in their work. Something that challenges the viewer in a very direct way. I was intrigued by the idea of work interacting in this way. My work has evolved organically with life experience and techniques that I’ve learned along the way. I am interested in allowing figurative work to be a part of the piece if it best expresses the ideas about which I’m thinking.

HR: The work has such a level of finish that it often appears manufactured, making the process pretty invisible to the viewer. Could you talk about this a bit? What’s “behind the scenes” of the creation of your work

TM: It’s about seeing the work without distractions. Direct and beautiful. I have an obsession for detail and the surface of things. I often find myself admiring the quality of finishes and lines in everything from a peanut butter jar that is sitting in front of me, lichens on an old fence post, or any kind of architecture. My background is in fabrication and prototyping, which one could say fosters a fastidious nature, others might say I’m just anal.

I really appreciate work where one can see the artist’s hand and the process, allowing the making to be a part of the visual and conceptual vocabulary. But I find it funny that when I experiment with that, I can never figure out if the work is done.

I often use mold making and casting in my work, which is a big part of the manufacturing world’s processes. I find mold making an antiquated operation. In order to create a casting, a remarkable amount of energy goes into making this “tool” (the mold), which never gets seen by anyone. For this reason I think this technique innately lends to this experience of a veiled process.

The main reason I use a kind of manufactured aesthetic is because I always want there to be some element of surprise. This type of finish suggests something mass produced. Products are all around us and we see them on a daily basis. These objects are loaded with visual and emotional associations and assumptions, creating an opportunity where assumptions about things can be leveraged into crafting a kind of mistaken identity or maybe a flash of the psychedelic. The experience of something familiar becoming unfamiliar.

HR: You work with a large variety of materials. Do you go into a project with mastery of the materials needed to make it happen, or do you have to develop your understanding of media specific to each piece?

TM: I explore a wide range of fabrication techniques and materials because I’m letting the idea that I’m thinking about dictate the imagery. This is the exciting part of the making, where I feel a sense of magic. With the intention of setting aside logic and practicality, I explore an idea and let it lead me where it may. This is where I really feel the art making happens…it feels like sculpting with ideas…playing in my imagination. After that, it becomes a process of resolving a different set of challenges to create the work. I’m regularly “reinventing the wheel”. Instead of mastering a technique and creating from that vantage point, I’m presented with the opportunity to learn about whatever process or material is required for each project. I think there’s a part of me that feels a need to earn the skills and the right to depict the thought and imagery with which I’m working. The idea sculpts me in a way.

HR: What has studio time been like for you during this pandemic? I’m hearing such diverse responses from artists, from needing distance from the studio, to having more time and energy for creative pursuits that may have been on the back burner, to everything in between. What is the situation doing for you?

TM: The pandemic has given me another reminder to recognize how precious time is for everyone everyday, which has already been a subtext within my work. It has changed the world in ways we are only beginning to recognize.

I have less time for my art practice. I’m trying to respect the shelter in place by managing more of my income work without help. I go to work in the morning, which is also my studio (conveniently) and stay until the evening. I try to fit in as much time as I can for art making. Unfortunately, because I have less help, I haven’t had as much time for making. My art time is further cut into because my wife has a career and my daughter is getting home schooled due to school closures and we are trying to navigate that situation.

HR: I’ve been asking artists this question when I get the chance: What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

TM: That’s easy, a tickle fight between my daughter and wife.