Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interview with Mason Saltarrelli

q)Introduce yourself, name,age, location.

a)Hello, my name is Mason Saltarrelli, I'm 33. I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and in 1997 I moved to New York. I now live and work in Brooklyn, New York

q) Can you describe your path to being an artist? When did you really get into it?

a)Growing up in New Orleans I started photographing jazz musicians at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe and at local festivals. I was 12 years old. I met Doc Cheatham, and started traveling to New York to photograph him at Sweet Basil in Greenwich Village and we became good friends. As a teenager I would leave the Palm Court at 11pm and meet up with friends in the French Quarter where there was no shortage of characters to document through out the rest of the weekend nights. As my visits to New York increased, so did my understanding of Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Decisive Moment" theory. Photojournalism became my obsession. I was the photo editor of Fordham University's new paper for two years and had a mentorship with the photo director of the NY Times for a year. My senior project was an exhibition of my travels in New Orleans, New York, Prague, and Zurich. At this time everything was switching over to digital photography. It seemed to me that the photojournalists were spending more time on their computers and less time shooting. That broke my desire to be a photojournalist. I knew I wouldn't keep up shooting film and I was just finishing college, so I stayed in NY and kept my part time job as a binocular renter at Madison Square Garden. I didn't stop shooting, but I also realized I didn't know what I was going to do. A roommate offered me two weeks of work as an artist's assistant for a world-renowed artist. I had no idea what that meant, and as long as it didn't require computer skills, I figured I could do it. Slowly but surely I began to realize that painting offered a gift of expression that photography did not. When I came to realize that, that's when I really got into it. 

q) Describe your ideals and how they manifest in your work.

a)My approach to art is through philosophy. That idea leads people to ask, "ok then, what is your philosophy?"
To that question I have no concrete answer because just as often as life changes, so can one's ideas about it. I do however believe that our spirits are our strength if we allow them to be. Much of my work is about dying. That's sounds morbid, but it's not meant to be. I believe that the departure from the human form is the greatest gift one will ever receive if they lead a good life. I make paintings and drawings that symbolize paths of the spirits of people and animals and nature that I admire. The Hopi Indian's Kachina doll is a very important aspect of my work. Initially I painted the same doll over and over. I did that so I could teach myself how to paint in the conventional sense. I then began to break the doll apart in my work, I let it explode basically. This to me is a symbol of how powerful the spirit of a person can be. I believe being in the human form is an opportunity to expand your spirit or compromise your spirit. I make work that I need to make to remind myself of that message, because in this world that's an easy one to forget. And hopefully in reminding myself of that message, when my art leaves my studio, I can share that message with others. My work is very personal. I use it as a way to pay respect to people who have passed before me. Most of my work is simply my way of saying thank you, both to people I have known such as my father and to people I have never met such as prisoners of war.

q) Is music a part of your studio time? What do you listen to?

a)Sometimes I use music as white noise if I'm painting in my studio in Brooklyn and need to drown outside noises out.  Sometimes I actively listen to the music that my mood dictates. That allows for a broad spectrum: Al Green, Coco Rosie, Otis Redding, Waylon Jennings, TV on the Radio, Wild Tchoupitoulas, Frank Sinatra.
If I'm working in Montauk, NY outside. I might play some of the same music, but there I prefer to channel the energy and hear nature, so often in Montauk, music is too distracting.

q) How would you describe your work to someone?
a)It's a type of harmony by way of chaos. Each one is it's own spirit map. That's why you see some re-occurring images in the work yet each one is unique.

q) Influences?

a)Visually: Walker Evans and Philip Guston.
Far more important, mentally: My Dad, my Aunt, and my Dog, Bird. All free to roam. 

q) Describe your process for creating new work.

a)All my paper work begins by tinting the paper and giving it a patina of undetermined age. The more broken down, the better. Most of my canvases are left outdoors to be exposed to the elements in places I consider special in Montauk. I like to let the earth and it's inhabitants help play a role in my decisions of where marks will go and what colors they will be made with.  My work is often a response to what nature has created on the paper or canvas. It's a conversation between the two of us. This is fun for me because it gives the work a life of it's own, it becomes less mine, which I appreciate. It makes me more just part of the process rather than the ruler. Once the proper marination of nature is set in the material, that's when I get down. I don't like to get too set up to paint, I let my intuition do most of the work. When all cylinders are firing, I use my last name. It's an Italian word for a type of jumping dance. I love to dance on my paintings. I'll even kick them, they kick back.

q) What advice do you have for artists looking to show their work?

a)It's hard. The art world is full of people in clicks patting each other on the back. Staying in their boring comfort zones. First and foremost, remember, if it's your art you love, be true to it. The "art world" is a business honest art making is not, it's a form of mental science given life by human skills and limitations. If it's your art you love make it, believe it, know it, and love it. Be patient, try to find the right people for it, dealer and audience. Rushing it will just waste your time. My work is not currently exposed on the level I would like, but that's something I've learned to accept through trial and error. If there will be a time for some commercial success, it will come when that time is right. If not, I will keep working and pushing myself to explore what and who I am. Haste makes waste.

q) What are you really excited about right now?

a)I'm currently in New Orleans, so I am excited that I am in a beautiful city that moves at a far slower pace from NY and has Po-Boys. They say NY has everything, not true. I've never had a good Po-Boy there.

q) What do you love most about where you live?

a)I love Prospect Park. Nature is the greatest artist. No human will ever come close to creating what nature has given us. The park helps me remember that. 

q) Best way to spend a day off?
a)My friend has a great Italian restaurant, Scalino in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I could sit there all day. 

q) Upcoming shows/ projects?

a)I'm currently in a group show at Tripoli Gallery in South Hampton with a great group of artists: 
And something's in the works in Washington DC with:

q) Where can people see more of your work on the internet?

Update coming soon.