"Touch Me, Don't Touch Me" Images & Text for 5 works by Jeff Mason

Exhibition at Habitat Tavern & Commons Opening Friday, February 9th

Holler editor Ali McGhee chose 5 titles, sight unseen, from local artist Jeff Mason’s new exhibition, up now at Habitat Tavern and Commons (174 Broadway St. in Asheville). Mason then responded with the images and write-ups about each one.



1) Patterns/Shuffle

Normally when I make collages, I don't start with much of a plan and it becomes a big messy production in the process by sorting through endless pieces of paper and selecting images and laying them out all over my studio floor. When I decided to do a series of pattern pieces, it was a relief because I was able to work comfortably on my couch. I spent days downloading and printing patterns of any type I could find on the internet from all sorts of eras, countries, and styles. I also combined them with origami paper and paper from scrapbook collections. I began cutting out rectangles of patterns and laying them out in very angular, controlled geometric arrangements. As the project progressed I began gluing down sections of patterns in overlapping triangles on a piece of brown recycled paper. I then cut that paper into rectangles and rearranged the sections, sort or remixing or shuffling the elements back into a tight composition which resulted in pieces like this one. I will often experiment with many layouts and photograph them before deciding on the final arrangement. One of my favorite aspects of this piece is that it incorporates the familiar carpet pattern from the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining.


2) Silhouetto

This is a rather large piece, and it can be challenging to produce larger works on paper because you are limited to the rather small sizes of your source material from books or magazines. I remember that I had recently bought a book on gymnastics and it is common for me to play around with new materials when I work. The title Silhouetto refers to the cutout silhouette of the gymnast above the black and white photo of the gymnast. You can see an origami pattern in the silhouette. There are also some more gymnasts doing back bends in the upper right and a mixture of geometric shapes mixed in and painted over creating borders. I often use the technique of cutting out figures and then using the image on the back of the page to reveal a familiar shape without showing the original image. It's a fun way of obscuring the original and using a less deliberate process to add organic shapes. There are also some drawings on yellow legal paper added in the composition. These are drawings related to one of my favorite photographs of all time. The photograph features a woman, her small child, and a potted plant falling from a fire escape. It is not uncommon for me to mix all sorts of personal artifacts like homework, envelopes, notes or sketches into a piece.


3) Ikebana for Sinners

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, and the tradition dates back to the seventh century when floral offerings were made at alters. A lot of my source material comes from old books found at thrift stores. I recently found a book on Ikebana and there are two upside-down pictures of ikebana in this piece. The title is slightly comedic, since there is a cross stitch piece featured in the composition with the words: GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER. One of my favorite aspects of the piece is the family standing in front of a geyser that obscures the top part of a woman's face. I also frequently use a lot of stencils and sticker letters as seen in the bottom left. Often when I work, I whittle down a bunch of images I set aside and figure out how to balance the composition, but try to incorporate a diversity of subject matter, i.e. words, figures, science, geometry, nature and add paint sometimes to unify everything.

Margin Runner.jpg

4) Margin Runner

This is one of my favorite pieces and incorporates many elements. Rubber stamps creating patterns, pattern paper, certain motifs, black and white and color photographs, and the use of white paint to mute or conceal aspects. The title of the piece refers to two things: One is that this was one of the first times I pushed all the elements of the composition to the edges or off the borders of the paper and then cropped them down, as opposed to fitting everything on the page and leaving a border of negative space around all the edges. I was inspired by various other collages I had seen but also by artwork by my best friend, Nat Lancaster. In most of his paintings and works on paper, he extends all the way to the margins of the canvas or page. The second related aspect of the title refers to the song Margin Walker by the band Fugazi. The title Margin Runner seemed fitting since I was pushing or running all the way to the margins and maximizing the full space available. My best friend and I are both big fans of the band Fugazi, so the title became a reference to the song and my inspiration from Nat's process. I also like the double use of fireworks—there are fireworks in the top right and the bottom left. The hanging dollar feels reminiscent of something Robert Rauschenberg might do and he is one of my biggest influences. The repeated red circles are a slight homage to the artist John Baldessari as well.

embrace - starts with a kiss 2.jpg

5) It Starts With a Kiss

I don't know how long ago I made this piece but it's been awhile. I often like to conceal faces because I think they can be distracting unless something is a portrait of a specific person or there is a strong reason to keep the expression intact. This piece was also once referred to as The Embrace but the title became It Starts With A Kiss when I used it as album art and title for a music compilation. The work itself is very minimal. It's just two pieces of paper. I really like the juxtaposition of the warm orange and brown of the figures with the tight purple and white pattern that coincidentally rounds into the contours of the faces of the man and woman. When I went to get this piece framed, I was going to crop out the extra purple and white pattern image down to just the rectangle of the faceless figures, but my framer convinced me to place the matte outside those boundaries and include some of the underlying pattern paper to reveal more of the technique behind the work. In the end I think it definitely adds something indescribable or maybe post-modern in a way.