We had the good fortune of connecting with Cynthia Mason and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cynthia, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance is really about the energy you put into your day. Is it fueling or draining? I see work as life. I am so grateful to have this weird need to make work, along with constant daily thought patterns to make it happen. I would feel really lost without this sense of navigation in the studio. I am not really sure where this comes from. But, this is what I love most about being an artist. It is such a gift to have the energy, time and space to make work every day. Sometimes I know where I am going that day, and sometimes I don’t. I will say that artists residencies have taught me the most about work life balance. When all daily tasks are removed from one’s schedule, huge segments of time open up just waiting for you to fill in. In early 2020 I was awarded a Helen Wurlitzer Foundation Residency Grant in Taos New Mexico. Each resident receives their own casita with an adjoining studio. Every morning I opened my eyes, I stared straight into my studio. Having that immediate presence with one’s work is so intimate and basic. Making time to have that intimacy with the work is the most important part of that balance for me. It is a relationship that you have to nurture daily.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Risk and failure are a huge part of my studio practice. If we don’t take risks there isn’t anything to respond to. I am always on the hunt for a failure of materials, processes, facades and systems. All things fail when the right pressure is applied. I love being able to repair those failures with makeshift methods or bad cover ups. This part of my practice can also give me anxiety. The failures I set up for myself can be overwhelming sometimes. But over the last few years I have learned to speak directly to myself when I feel this anxiety coming on. I have learned that stepping back and giving myself time to converse with the work is what I tend to rush, which is really the core of this anxiety. I am most excited when I am in the moment creating forms in space. I love those moments where the materials speak to you, they lure you into your next response. Gravity, collapse, systems, folds in space, apparitions, nature and authority are all things I am thinking about right now.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I love being immersed with plants, trees and landscape. Weedon Island Preserve for a walk or kayaking adventure and the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum on a windy evening is the best. Pass-A-Grille beach is a must. Caladesi Island State Park is another one that tops my list. For aged steaks, homemade pasta and the best cheese and wine selection: Mazarro’s market. My favorite stop for a burger and a beer is El Caps. For art the Museum of Fine Art in St Petersburg, Tampa Art Museum and the USF Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa. St Petersburg has changed so much over the past 10 years. I love just walking down Central Ave, so much to do and see!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to say that both my graduate experience at USF in Tampa and my undergraduate experience at Ringling College in Sarasota have been so impactful on me both professionally and personally. All the faculty give so much to their students. I am so grateful to Elisabeth Condon, Neil Bender, Wally Wilson, Kim Elam, Holly Antoszewski and Jennifer Mumford Brady. I also am a member at Wayfarers Art Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. Being part of a group of such dedicated and established artists has been incredibly nurturing. We have these wonderful critique groups where a curator or artist lends their time to critique our work. I really miss being able to visit one of my favorite cities due to Covid right now. Residencies have also been a huge part of my success as I mentioned earlier. The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in NM and Jentel Artist Residency in WY have given me such a strong foundation to build upon. I am eager for more! Books also are such a large part of my process. I have been really into ‘Notes from the Woodshed’ by Jack Whitten for a while now. One quote stands out in particular: ‘ART IS ALL ABOUT BEING ABLE TO LOCATE YOURSELF IN SPACE’ Being able to identify what space you occupy, how you occupy that space, and what objects and phenomenon occupy that space with you leads off into so many fascinating directions for myself as both an artist and a viewer. Space is physical, it’s where we locate our physical bodies. But it can also be a mental space. A space where thoughts and psychic events happen. In ‘Notes from the Woodshed’, Whitten brings in a de Kooning quote that resonates so profoundly with me: ‘content is a glimpse’. I cannot get enough of this stuff!