Turning Wood into Art: The Jane and Arthur Mason Collection

By Suzanne Ramljak; Michael W. Monroe et al. | Go to book overview

A Passion for Wood: The Jane and Arthur Mason Collection

Michael W. Monroe

Few human activities provide greater personal gratification than assembling a collection. Excitement, romance, drama and sense of accomplishment and triumph are all present in collecting. 1

J. Paul Getty

The 123 works by forty-three artists gathered by Jane and Arthur Mason constitute one of the most significant collections of contemporary turned-wood objects in America today. Spanning the second half of the twentieth century, it is a collection that allows an examination of major North American and European turners and a meaningful investigation of both the motives and expressive poetic language of these artists. Immense pleasure is derived from experiencing the consistent high quality of concept, process, and object present in this esteemed collection, which invites the viewer to linger in contemplative appreciation of the inherent sensuality and beauty of the varied wood forms. The vast majority of the collection reflects the Masons' predilection for pieces formed primarily on the lathe rather than not, and for works by artists for whom the natural beauty of wood is to be cherished, not obliterated by artificial means.

The Masons' affinity for collecting has developed over a period of time. Paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures by noted artists such as George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, Jacob Kainen, and George Segal have become an intimate part of their lives, significant contributions to the ambience of their home. Their choices reflect maturity and a keenness for selecting pieces that are articulate, purposeful, and original. These acts of commitment have brought personal joy and satisfaction to the Masons and have inspired in them a fundamental human phenomenon--the urge to collect.

The Masons' exposure to and passion for turned wood began with a 1986 visit to "The Art of Turned-Wood Bowls" exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art. A traveling exhibition organized by the Arizona State University Art Museum, it featured the collection of Edward Jacobson, who subsequently donated his collection to ASU in 1989. Widely acknowledged "to be a touchstone, providing history and a standard for the field," 2 the exhibition was a seminal force in developing a national awareness of the extraordinary artistic potential of lathe-turned wood. The Masons were captivated by the exhibition. One collection inspired the beginning of another, and the passion for collecting wood was shared and passed on.

Todd Hoyer. Untitled. 1990. (See Plate 36)

With remarkable energy, diligence, and creativity, the Masons assembled a set of works that acknowledge that the process of wood turning requires far more than a handsome piece of wood and facile technical expertise. The turner working with a lathe is an artist whose discerning eye and intuitive spirit guide the form through its development. The Masons have formed personal friendships with many turners, and these relationships have deepened the Masons' insight into and appreciation for their collection. As strong advocates for the artists and the art of turning, the Masons have strengthened the symbiotic artist-patron relationship that has been so meaningful to them.

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Turning Wood into Art: The Jane and Arthur Mason Collection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Foreword and Acknowledgments 6
  • Preface 9
  • The First Year 11
  • As the World Turns: Wood Turning in an Expanded Context 17
  • A Passion for Wood: the Jane and Arthur Mason Collection 33
  • Notes 46
  • Cataloque of the Exhibition 47
  • Checklist of the Exhibition 194
  • Selected Bibliography 197
  • Biographies of the Artists 199
  • Index 207
  • Photograph Credits 208
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