A Light in the Dark: The Art and Life of Frank Mason documents key passages from the late master’s vivid life. A scholar of Old Masters’ techniques and histories, he turned to action to protect Renaissance and Baroque masterworks that were suffering harmful ablutions at the hands of over-zealous conservators at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. He was a tireless and vocal critic of the chemical scrubbing of the Sistine Chapel. This absorbing film encompasses this story and more, including commentary by author Tom Wolfe, former Met Museum Director Thomas Hoving and former art editor for TIME Alex Eliot.
The film was directed by Sonny Quinn. Walter Scott Mason, Frank’s great-nephew, who wrote and produced, will be present for the Q and A.
Suzy Hart will introduce the film by discussing the mastery of illusion that is so essential in works of imagination. Works of imagination are sometimes diminished by a flatness that describes a scene but fails to create that motility which the eye needs for the mind to roam. To imagine a space that feels real, the eye must be unfixed, because an unfixed form allows temporal movement. Selected Mason paintings will be analyzed in regard to mastery of form and illusion, including devices that produce atmosphere. Solid form can convince the mind that a character or a space is real, but it is the ineffable element of atmosphere that produces strong illusion.
Mason’s brushwork was poetic, his vision truly grand. An intellectual powerhouse, he would hold discourse on the great painters while wielding a paintbrush on a student’s canvas. Mason’s use of chromatic temperature and his mobile, fluid, and active brushwork allow the viewer’s eye to be redirected according to the artist’s intention. Like Richard Schmid, another hero of the rebirth of realism, Frank could abandon a painting at any stage and leave a perfect painting. Always painting in plein air or from life, he refused to use photographs. He was not interested in copying objects. He wanted to describe the falling of light over a form, the depth of space around it, the feeling of air moving over the landscape. He loved to observe.
Cynicism may be a pragmatic, sane and sad response to the 20th Century’s headlong descent into poor governance and environmental destruction. But Frank never yielded to despair, rather, he chose hope and the creative force within himself when all other lights were dimming. He never compromised or adjusted to the art critics’ worldview. He was adamant that realism and beauty would prevail over chaos.
Frank Mason was that Master we all aspired to become who were lucky enough to study with him and to be inspired by his commitment to truth and beauty. His sense of humor shines in the film, his love of life shines in his work. He kept the light burning when no one believed in beauty anymore. Frank was larger than life.
Suzy Hart moved to York in 1980 to study painting, after having run away with Ringling Brothers Circus for two seasons, in 1978 and 1980. The circus always stopped in NY for three months every spring, so the transition to the Art Students League was serendipitous. She lived on the circus train while hunting for an apartment. Suzy became a Life Member of the ASL of NY after four years with Frank Mason and Gustav Rehberger. After starting a family, she moved to Bozeman, MT, finishing a BA in Sculpture and Art history at MSU.
She has received four honors from the Portrait Society of America including an Award of Excellence in the 2007 International Competition. She is a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America.
Hart has been published in As It Is: The Proceedings of the TRAC 2015 Conference and has presented at FACE2017 and FACE2018. Her article “The Charleston Nine: Despair and the Power of the Sublime” appeared in Fine Art Connoisseur, October 2017.
Hart is deeply interested in what moves artists to make powerful 21st Century artworks, as well as the legacies that inform the new wave.