Josh Mason: Creating Immediate Experiences With Nature-Inspired Paintings

By | 5:42 PM
Joshua Mason is a painter who studied Fine Arts at Gwen Frostic School of Art and currently lives and works on the coast of Southern Michigan with a summer studio in Northern Michigan. He teaches painting and likes to emphasize the field as an artifact of spontaneity in his lessons. This summer Joshua is teaching a workshop exploring found materials and land art. 
"I like to create my own interpretation of the projects or lessons alongside my students. What I enjoy most about teaching is the atmosphere of active creation as a group."
Materia Forma - Riverside I
Materia Forma - Riverside I

Tell me about your first experience painting:

My mother used to paint crafts and nick-knacks and some of my earliest memories are sitting on her knee watching the brush go back and forth. Another early experience was a book by Werner Haftmann called Painting in the Twentieth Century. 

At what point in your life did you come to consider yourself an artist?

Probably around the time I went to art school. I studied with others and was influenced by a few professors and began to aspire to be an artist. There were also profound changes in my consciousness then and I sought to find myself outside of my role as a mere consumer caught in the personalization combines, and the only way to do that was to be creative. There is a difference between considering art as some kind of profession and being an artist. Like Nietzsche suggests, he is it - art is a very particular kind of being in the world. You must live it. 

What is your preferred medium(s) and why?

I am interested in painting, sculpture, installation and sound. I explore painting because I am interested in exploring surfaces that combine color with dirt and earth, as well as pigments from natural items, as potential fields of erosion - in painting you can destroy to create. I explore sculpture and installation as a means of experiencing space as a poetic speech, and through those mediums I often explore found materials.  Recently I had the privilege of assisting the land artist Patrick Dougherty in an installation using saplings of varying sizes and this has really influenced my approach to space and materials. 

Fons Sapientiae
Fons Sapientiae

What things inspire you the most as an artist?

Other artists - looking, feeling and experiencing their work. I am also inspired by the forests and great lakes. I am inspired by the 'arboreal Gothic' sensibility rather than slick classicism: I prefer the wild heath to the marble steps.

What story do you intend to be told by your art? What does it mean to you?

I don't necessarily want to tell a story. I'd rather explore an immanence through materials that needs no story other than its own revelation. I am interested in presence and it has no time for stories. As much as possible I'd like to explore 'emergent' processes that I then add upon with my creativity, in the pursuit of arriving at sensation and affects in the felt presence of immediate experience.  When I am painting I am not thinking of stories and I never have an image of what it will be before I begin. Of course I may have inspirations and influences, but during the act, the happening of the event that paints, there is an immanence of affect flooding across me. Every relation is a translation: it eventually generates meaning for me, of course, but any meaning that surrounds it is totally different from someone else's meaning, which ought to reveal to us the perspectival nature of being. Outside of informing people on my influences and interests, I want to invite them to form their own meanings, or, maybe, if possible, reside outside of meaning.


What other artists have influenced your art?

My influences are so vast that it would be difficult to condense them down to a list, but if I was pressed I would quickly cite a few. I am influenced more and more by the artists I have met or have gotten to know, or through direct experience of works of art. I am influenced by philosophy and the history of ideas and anything that allows thought to tease itself about the nature of art and reality. I am interested the potential of magic in material things.

Do you have any regrets in your life as an artist?

I have no regrets in either life or art because everything had led up to this moment, which is a gift of mystery.

What do you have planned for the future of your art?

My wife has had a great influence on my views of creativity and together we have intiated our own studio, Fieldwork Studios, in order to explore, express and create in whatever medium. My plans for the future are to keep creating art, showing and exhibiting. Also, I currently teach art and would like to continue to do so.

Materia Forma - Riverside II
Materia Forma - Riverside II

Do you have any advice for emerging artists?

Yes, be honest with yourself because that is the only way to find your own voice - don't try to be something that you are not, especially for the sake of recognition or popularity. Be passionate about your interests. Don't become an artist if you want a career, become an artist because you cannot do anything but and it rattles around in your core. Explore as many techniques and mediums as possible.

How should people find you online….
profile photo, Josh Mason, Artist, Painter Teacher

all images © Joshua Mason
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