PHOTO ABOVE: From “Cradle of Kleptocracy” by Madara Mason
I CONTAIN MULTITUDES – Madara Mason is an eclectic artist. Her work combines paper, beads, found objects, dressmaking patterns, grant rejections, prescription labels, block prints, magazine and book cutouts, and traditional media like acrylic paint and ink. Born and raised in the South, Mason moved to Alaska in 1994 and began painting the animals and plants she found in her backyard. Her work is featured through July 2018 in the Café Gallery at the UA Museum of the North.
Is there a theme to the artworks that you selected for this show? So many artists have made powerful political statements regarding women’s work, and I don’t feel I need to repeat those statements. But by the same token, in rejecting that emphasis, I might ALSO be guilty of rejecting women’s work as irrelevant. The traditions I allude to in my work are more meaningful than the generic label of women’s work: the reuse of old materials, mending the broken, using patterns to bind a community through the use of shared imagery, and constructing objects that carry the memories of a family or individual.
I also think there’s an element of landscape and flora and fauna in these works that I’m hoping won’t be overlooked. Landscapes are so often tidy recreations of a singular individual’s (often romanticized) perspective. In my experience nature isn’t tidy at all and it changes constantly, especially the landscapes you find in Fairbanks and the surrounding areas, which are often as urban as they are wild. You can’t really go on a hike or a walk or a kayak trip without coming across bits of wrappers, labels, odd trinkets with no clear purpose, pieces of tools or cars, remnants of junk mail, and the remains of the pipeline industry. Most of these paintings are my attempt to reconcile that detritus of urban life with the wild, organic forms that spring up inside of it and all around it, which would be a more honest vision of my local landscape as I see it.
I guess I’m trying to hone in on the realities of all these multiple landscapes, multiple identities, multiple perspectives, and multiple methods of constructing a work of art. There’s a voice in American culture right now asking me to define myself as one thing: one race, one origin, one gender, one religion, one nationality, one political party. This is my refusal to define myself and my world in such singular terms. Like Whitman said, “I contain multitudes” and those multitudes sometimes contradict one another.