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May 08, 2019

Ceramic Artist John Mason

This past weekend was the date we had scheduled to get together. It had been more than thirty years since we’d met in the basement of Hunter College where the ceramic department was housed. We had landed there via different paths but with the same passion—clay.

Sunday, we reunited on the steps of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and together we wandered up to the fourth-floor dining room. Ambling through the Met is an experience in itself—a glance here, a gasp there and before we knew it, we had entered the dining room full of excitement at what we had just seen and keen to reconnect in our passion.

The official reason for our get together was the passing of the artist John Mason. John taught at Hunter while we were there and was famous for creating sculptures and reliefs that redefined the perceived constraints of clay.

As the website of the Frank Lloyd Gallery explained, “John Mason focused on exploring the physical properties of clay—its possibilities as well as its limitations as a medium. He constantly experimented with his material’s plasticity, pushing clay to its technical limits and developing innovative firing techniques.”

For young artists, working around him was a privilege.

His presence was palpable and his brilliance was in his silences. Instead of talking, he would look. I found the silences agonizing, so I would fill the space with mental chatter, hoping to be blessed with a thought that would move me out of my quandary. When he did make a comment, it was as if I were hearing a kōan (a paradoxical anecdote, used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke awareness., such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”) “Oh, okay, thanks . . . Wait, what?" And I’d watch him walk out of the room because I was far too intimidated to say, “What did that mean exactly?” Instead, I’d be left pondering.

There are times when people get together and the experience is better than we could have imagined; this was one of those times.

I keep turning the day over in my mind, wondering what made it so special. There was a commonality that brought us together. We talked about our past and a bit about how we got to the present; there was our mutual admiration for a man who was kind enough to help us along our path with his wisdom; and, of course, our love for clay, the medium that allowed us to express ourselves.

I found this kōan that just may say it all: 

                          “Out of nowhere, the mind comes forth.”

We met at a time of exploration, were given the space to find ourselves, and reuniting was merely a continuation of what was born and continues to grow.


What about you?

Have you ever had an unexpected moment that turned out to be so much better than you could have imagined?

I’d love to know.


Want more:

Here is a blog post you might also enjoy reading. DINNER IN PARIS . . . SO MUCH BETTER THAN I IMAGINED! Here is the link to the post Click Here


I’d like to thank: Lisa Wolkow, Jonathan Zamet, Jim Makins, and Bob Seigal for a wonderful day.

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