Emily Mason

Emily Mason

This Christmas I received quite a few art books as presents. I was completely thrilled when I opened each one! One of the two I received from my mom is “The Light In Spring” which studies some of the works of Emily Mason. Mason is a contemporary artist who has worked in New York for the past 60 years. “The Light In Spring” is a display of 100 of her works, both paintings and prints.

I discovered Mason this past semester in my Painting II studio course. My professor Laura Alexander always had books laid out for us to look at when we were in need of inspiration or fresh ideas. I was immediately intrigued by Mason’s color choices. Her works are bright and lively and, to me, evoke emotions and feelings that can not exactly be named. One of my paintings this semester was actually inspired by one of the pieces I saw in the Mason pamphlet one day during class. I wanted to practice using colors that were out of my palette’s comfort zone and studying a few of her pieces pushed me to do so.

When I first saw that pamphlet in class the first thing I thought of were those times of day when you don’t know if it is morning or night; sunrise or sunset. Those moments where time does not matter because the view, the energy, and the color surrounding you are so magnificent. Emily’s paintings made me feel like I do at these particular, rare moments. Keeping this in mind, I was really struck by the first words in the book – a quote by Mason which reads: “My work, while never a depiction of nature, is analogous in its process to the workings of nature and, in its result, aims for the beauty of the interior of a great storm or a day lily.”

The first essay in the book is written by David Ebony. I learned quite a few things about Emily from these pages:

  • Emily Dickinson’s poems were and still are a huge source of inspiration for Mason’s work.
  • She was surrounded by artists throughout her childhood years. She met Piet Mondrian and was even babysat occasionally by Milton Avery.
  • Under a Fulbright grant, Emily was able to study art in Italy in 1856.
  • While many Color Field painters prefer acrylics, Mason uses oil paints.

Emily portrays natural phenomenons in many of her masterpieces. In almost every work I experience an entire scene without any of it really being there at all. Sometimes I see fish, sometimes mountains, sometimes thunderstorms. I find viewing her work to be a fun and magical time.

One of my favorite works by Mason so far is Just Sunrise (2012, oil, 50×40 inches). The majority of the canvas is red, with both soft and electric blues peeping through. The top of the canvas is adorned with pastel peaches, pinks, and greens. I see a mountain being set on fire as the glow of the sun becomes stronger with each passing moment, as it rises higher. Dawn is breaking, but it is not gone yet. The earth is still dark under the red glow of a new day.


Mason is a fine model of bold color choices. She motivates me to be more experimental and to let loose more often. Her work demonstrates how important it is to let the colors themselves do most of the talking.

Thanks Mom, for a gift I will always cherish!


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