Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Mason.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Cynthia. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve been a painter since the fourth grade when I picked out my first set of oil paints from the JC Penney catalog. I don’t know what led me to oils, but I knew I had to have them. Maybe it was the orderly arrangement of raw materials in that small wooden case—it seemed so official, so businesslike—with each toolset in its molded plastic form waiting to be selected. From that moment, I was hooked, the smell of turpentine and the buttery paint enveloping my senses. Back then, raw materials and their potential got me going.
They still do. Today, as a professional artist, I engage with raw materials every day to make work I believe in. My love for materials results in folding, rolling and attaching porcelain, linen, oil paint, fabric dye, and 24k gold leaf in haphazard or makeshift methods invented anew each working session. I love to reveal how materials repel or merge, ooze and crack, how they patina and shift to show their existence.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road has been mostly windy and unfamiliar, with countless hills, bumps, mountains, detours, wrong-ways, and do-not-enters, coupled with joyful breakthroughs and frightening failures that can be hard to navigate. But this suits me: journeys are what I searched for as a child (1980s PBS travel shows were my favorite). I’ve learned since that I need to travel, to experience distant environments and daunting landscapes. Being an artist fits, since in art and life I crave the road, even if it’s uncomfortable.
But for a while, I truly struggled to accept this need to make work—it felt like a curse at times (I hate admitting that). Guilt started creeping in when I became a mother in 2000. Why did I have a need to make all this seemingly valueless stuff, much of which ends up in a heap in the corner of my studio? Managing both my roles as mother and artist became a new goal, and I figured out a way to make my home a safe studio for making while raising my daughter. Now, I understand: this is my language and I have things to say. It’s an obsession, an addiction that I’ll never give up.
My advice to young artists is, if the process is always easy, always crystal clear, you may not be pushing yourself hard enough to break through the “accepted.” I still doubt myself (quite often), but I’ve learned that these doubts are pinholes to discovery. Uneasiness is part of my process, of life, of truth. When I want to vomit and curl up in a ball along with my failed pieces—well, that’s not easy. But, even when facing gut-wrenching doubt, I no longer allow it to hinder my process. These pinhole doubts I now stretch into portals of new work.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I studied architecture out of high school and failed miserably at it. Most of what I made was wonky; my measurements were off; I used makeshift methods to construct and I painted my way through studio class. My professors and peers actually liked what I was doing, which was great—but also hard for me to recognize. Everything I made turned out to be different from the convention. I felt like a failure, an outsider who just couldn’t get it. After my third year, I dropped out. I now see that these years when I was pouring paint and using gravity to create failing structures—they’re exactly what formed my practice today.
While I consider myself a painter (and always will), form, facade, structure, and the unseen are what I search for in my work, which has led me to discover soft sculptures. I often think sculpture is finished only to find its weakest part, break it and put it back together again. It’s then the piece really emerges. Since that time in architecture school, I’ve actually come to embrace destruction and instability.
Failure in perceived reality fascinates me. Failure is, in fact, the heart of my work. My sculptures tend to be floppy, saggy, bloated, patchy, discolored and impotent. Like they have “let themselves go.” They remind me of organs and everyday objects, like laptops and shelves, but offering no reliability. Of course, real life is much less stable than we’d like to admit. We’re in a state of constant chaos with a facade of order—this stuff gets me super excited and charged!
For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
Our personal experiences form our perspectives and what we have to say. I don’t consider myself Democrat, Republican or Independent; I see those as social categories used to pressure us into choosing a side, making us artificially different from one another and urging us to strike down others. I’m an artist; I make work, and while I invoke gender and politics in my pieces, I’m not super concerned with declaring myself a female artist. I just happened to be a woman and am committed to my work. Personalities, experiences, and passions dictate what we do in life, not gender. We are all well positioned to do what we do.
That being said, I live in a time when women fought hard so that we can vote, advocate for ourselves, and (for the most part) work safely as women, and this is not lost on me.
- My work ranges from $150-$1000
- Address: 1640 27th Ave North, St Petersburg, FL 33713
- Website: www.cynthiamason.com
- Phone: 941-238-7805
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: #cynthiamasonvisualart
Portrait by: Laura Cobb