Interview – Mason Deane – Belgrade Art Studio Online Residency

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What piqued your interest in arts, and when did you know this was the career path for you?

I was always a creative kid. I remember doing crafts with my mom and my aunt quite often. My dad still has examples of these hanging around his house. I remember a particular one, turtles cut out and mirrored on construction paper, that’s been haunting me for years. Though I always enjoyed creating, I fully credit my middle and high school art teachers. I had the same two teachers for six years and we got to know each other quite well. Towards the end of my time in high school I would sit in their classrooms during lunch and free bells, I’d even help with some of the younger grades from time to time. They introduced me to the basics of art making, and when I took all of the art classes available to me, they let me repeat them so I could challenge myself more than I had the first time around. Eventually, art became such a constant in my day to day that I decided there wasn’t much else out there that would make me happy.

Could you tell us about the process of creation? How long does it take to move from an idea to a realization?

This question is a hard one to answer. I feel like my process of creation doesn’t have much structure, and the structure it does have varies from project to project. I largely let the work influence the creation. What I’m trying to say, what I need to do, and how strong my concept is to begin with all have some sort of influence on the process. Mostly, I let the work speak for and influence itself. If I don’t give up some sort of control and allow each piece to exist as true to itself as it can, I get worried about every little detail being perfect. It becomes less about speaking my mind through art and more about obtaining this, oftentimes unrealistic, goal for myself. Sometimes its something I need to sit with, let it stew until it develops into something amazing. Other times I can’t get the work done fast enough, I feel like I’m rushing towards the end like my life depends on it. I think you can often pick up on these qualities in my work, and it gives each its own unique feel, which I really really enjoy.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

This one is also difficult to answer, but I think it all boils down to the human experience. I use my art to make sense of and process the world around me. It’s become therapeutic for me to reflect on the things going on around me in this kind of way. I like connecting with others through these concepts and experiences that people may think is unique to them. There is little, if anything, out that that can be experienced solely by you. You are never alone in your thoughts and feelings, and I find a lot of comfort in that. Recently I’ve been exploring relationships, especially those from a queer perspective, both with other members of the queer community but, almost more importantly, those outside of it.

To what extent does the pandemic influence your depiction of art? Does it generate new inspiration?

I feel like the pandemic hit at a very weird time for me. Obviously, it was a weird time for everyone. A worldwide virus isn’t ideal at any point in life, but the pandemic hitting right at the beginning of my college career felt unfair. I was just beginning to establish myself as an artist, both to myself and within the community. I was finding my artistic voice, enjoying my classes, and learning new things but I feel like all of that came to a screeching halt less than a year in. I’m still unsure of myself as an artist, and though I still would’ve had growing to do if it weren’t for Covid, I think it’s set me back tenfold. Though I am certainly starting to find inspiration in these odd days, it took me quite awhile to get there.

How do you feel about being involved in an online residency program? How important is it to stay connected with the international art community?

I am just so so honored to be involved in this residency. I came across the opportunity while doing research for a class project and I just knew I had to apply. As a college student and stereotypical starving artist, a residency is almost never an option. But finding this opportunity and the community that comes with it, stretching across the globe from the comfort and safety of my own four walls, I couldn’t pass something like that up! It feels invaluable, really. I’m being exposed to different artists from different cultures with different experiences and there is something so amazing and inspiring about that. I don’t feel as big of a disconnect anymore, which has really helped push me forward into creating again.

What are your thoughts about the theme ‘artist on standby’? Tell us a bit more about your project…

I really want to nail in the idea of isolation that the pandemic brought me. Even as quarantine restrictions were lifted and life continued on as best it could, I still felt like an outsider. I was simply watching the world move through a blurry lens. Each day blended into the next. I couldn’t tell up from down or left from right. My entire world felt like it had been shaken to its core so I took a step back and just watched. Eventually, as this pandemic became my new normal, things got clearer, but it was slow going and a little scary there in the beginning. I want to share my experience of the past few years and show how this all has affected me. I’ll be using photography as my medium and taking simple self-portraits, guiding the viewer through my day as things slowly start to get hazy. So slowly they don’t notice, until suddenly, at the end of the day, you realize you can’t see a thing.

What do you want to achieve before things return to normal if it is to happen? Any future plans/projects?

Honestly, I don’t think we will ever get back to what “normal” once was. This pandemic has opened a lot of eyes and shown a lot of true colors. I think we are moving towards a new normal, a life informed by the years long tragedy that is and was the Covid pandemic. Really, I just want to feel comfortable in my creative skin again. I want to move forward with the world instead of finding myself on standby again. I want to continue to build my community, graduate college, and see what the world has to offer for me then.