‘A Day At The Beach’, a multi-media Installation, “The National Glass Centre “ museum Sunderland, England, July 11th – October 4th 2015.
Throughout her lifetime of globe-trotting, the Sunderland seafront stayed with Mason as the site of her happiest childhood memories, the root of her connection to the natural world, and as her original artistic inspiration. When the National Glass Centre opened, she saw an opportunity to go back to this source and to share the sense of wonder and creative possibility. She knew that engaging local children in the act of learning through play would be the best path to breaking down the barriers between high culture of the Centre and the working class community of Sunderland, and to re-connecting the artifice of glass-making to its origins in the primal elements of water and sand. As it happened, the Centre was embarking on research in application of 3-D scanning and printing technology to glass, and Mason immediately saw the potential for a mutually beneficial interdisciplinary relationship: technical research + site-specific art installation + community involvement.
The spark of inspiration came to Mason during a trip to the beach with Fulwell Juniors School children for a sandcastle-building competition, in July of 2014. She was amazed by the originality and the variety of castles, by ingenuity the children brought to solving engineering problems that were new to them, and by the uninhibited delight with which they tackled the project. From this, came the idea for the project centerpiece as something that the people of Sunderland can call their own and will always return to: a large-scale version of the most interesting castle, cast in glass, to be installed permanently in the Glass Centre, as an anchor amid ever-changing exhibitions. On a more practical level, new digital technologies would allow the Centre to fabricate and sell multiples of castle parts and other small-scale glass pieces.
While Mason is hoping to realize these ideas in the future, the parameters of the current exhibition – both the available space and the limits of the research grant – called for a different sort of installation. The young castle-builders were brought into the Centre by Mason to experiment in translating their creativity into clay and glass and to help shape the exhibition. At the same time, Mason worked with the Centre resident artists Effie Burns and Erin Dickson to create 3-D printed pieces and an installation of large-scale glass pieces that have been waterjet-cut, and hand-painted by Mason with images inspired by ‘A Day At the Beach’. A believer in serendipitous and often unpredictable nature of the artistic process, Mason feels that the resulting exhibition has achieved her main goals: an exploration of interplay between the natural and the man-made, an inquiry into the impact of digital technology on art, the experience of child’s-play aspects of creativity, and the involvement of the Sunderland community. She hopes that the exhibit will get a chance to travel, either in parts or as a whole, and that in the future she will get an opportunity to realize some of her other ideas for the Centre.