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John Mason

For me one of the great appeals of working in stone is its very intractability. It forces me to shift down into bottom gear and not expect quick results. I have worked in alabaster, limestone, Virginia soapstone and granite, but marble is the stone I really love to carve. Whatever one does to marble it always seems to redeem the sculptor's efforts and yield an exciting shape and finish. No wonder the Greek name for marble is 'shining stone'!

The subject of most of my work is the human form. I have been strongly influenced by the 'early modern' European sculptors such as Epstein, Brancusi and Moore, who all looked beyond a detailed representation of the real world in their art. I enjoy the challenge of taking some part of the human body and trying to express its essence in a semi-abstract form. Shape, form and outline in sculpture speak to me more than realistic detail.

I took up stone carving only a few years ago after a career teaching Modern History in England, Eastern Europe and most recently as Visiting Professor at Hollins University and Washington and Lee. It was in a class of Ken Smith's in Staunton that I carved my first piece of stone - a head in pink Colorado alabaster - and I was hooked! At this time I discovered the work of Jose de Creeft, the Spanish-American pioneer of direct stone carving in the mid-twentieth century. De Creeft's dreamlike, almost ethereal, human forms emerging from the stone have had a deep impact on the way I think about stone carving.

In 2006 I worked for a month in a studio in Pietrasanta, Italy, the 'mecca' of marble carvers around the world. Pietrasanta is the home of classical marble sculpture, but it is also a center of contemporary European sculptural design and it was this aspect of the town which excited my imagination and showed me the possibility of working in marble on modern themes. Closer to home I have attended courses on marble and granite stone carving at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center (CSSC) in West Rutland, Vermont. The CSSC is Vermont's answer to Carrara and a great place to learn the craft of stone carving; now I hope to do independent work there as a guest resident artist. (See Links below for more information about CSSC).

I have shown my work at the Newcomb Hall Gallery of the University of Virginia, the Staunton Augusta Arts Center (2007 and 2009) and the Nelson Fine Arts Gallery in Lexington, where I won the Member's Choice Prize (2007) and a Joint Show with Janet Dance (2008); the Avenue Arts Studio, Lynchburg (2008) and Art on the Green, Lexington (2010), where I won Second Prize for Best in Show. In 2009 I gave an illustrated lunchtime talk at the Taubman Museum, Roanoke.

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