Painting has always been a powerful experience for Marjorie Mason, and her work reflects the care and intention she prioritizes and the experiences from which she draws inspiration. Her paintings are bright, gestural, and encapsulate the magic that has captured her attention throughout her career. She creates simply to create; to connect with her surroundings, community, and the myriad of things that make the Cape and Islands so special.
Mason’s passion for art was evident and nurtured throughout her adolescence and into her time at art school, where she was able to explore a variety of expressive art forms. Although she began school as an illustration major with dreams of being featured on the cover of The New Yorker, her focus quickly shifted after being exposed to monotypes – painting that requires an etching press to transfer the print onto paper. “It was a revelation,” she remembers. “I had to do them.” This fascination with monotypes continued as Mason began selling her work. After she graduated from art school, she spent time on the Vineyard, solidifying her love of the island and catalyzing the start of her career in this region. “I couldn’t get it out of my head,” Mason says. “This was the place I needed to be painting monotypes.”
Mason has been painting professionally since 1981 and living on Martha’s Vineyard for nearly as long. Within that time, her practice has included a variety of painting forms, including monotypes, plein air, and oil; all the while embracing and exploring the beauty of the Vineyard in new, authentic, and exciting ways. Mason emphasizes the quality of light and subjects featured in her paintings as critical to capture the Vineyard’s spirit. “You just feel good being here,” she says. “You feel like you are part of something magical. And that’s why I picked it. I feel I’ve entered a magical space and it defies words. It’s all about how good you feel being here and how beautiful it is because it is essential beauty. It is its own thing, and you want to paint it … for one tiny island, it’s endlessly diverse.”
Despite an extensive career, Mason’s painting continues to evolve, as she continues to expand her artistic repertoire. She transitioned from monotypes to canvas about ten years ago to create room for experimentation. “I just really loved switching out of monotype onto canvas where I could support bigger work,” Mason explains. “Something about oil paint actually gives you the freedom you need… I wanted to be forgiven. Oil paints do that. They let you really mix color, and you just get way more possibility out of oil. You get a lot of happy accidents.” Her work also includes a variety of abstract pieces, as it steps away from quintessential coastal scenes. They are a “reprieve” from the summer season and an authentic response to winter on the Vineyard. “I’m still dreaming up different ways,” she says, “of what my approach is.” The community she has connected with on the Vineyard further facilitates this growth. “I invite everybody to see what I do, the solutions I come up with,” Mason explains. “We’re sharing this, this is all about what progress is. We learn from each other.”
Moving forward, Mason intends to continue exploring color value, plein air, and other aspects of her practice. She is currently committed to splitting her time between art and aiding the island’s most vulnerable, particularly given this tumultuous year. “It’s a weird time,” she reflects. “If making art keeps you strong, and wise, and in the light, as does moving forward to help others, showing other people how to have peace and well-being, go for it. There’s a ton of work to do.”
Mason is committed to spreading joy and wellness to those who consider art a form of self-care. “I am in a relationship with people who love the same thing I love and that becomes a motivator and an affirmation for me,” she asserts. “You’re participating in something that is very magical. You’re giving it your awareness, and that’s the thing that I really get the most out of my art and this place. Ultimately this is about peace.” – Katie Anastas
Mason’s work can be seen at The Christina Gallery, 5 Winter Street in Edgartown or christina.com