Interview with Media Lux Artist Mason HurleyPosted: May 16, 2018
This is the fifth installment of the MEDIA LUX artist interview series. MEDIA LUX features work by Mason Hurley, Clay Dunklin Irene Pantelis, Monroe Isenberg, and Gina Takaoka.
Mason Hurley| Second-Year Master of Fine Arts Candidate | Exhibiting in MEDIA LUX from April 2nd through May 19th, 2018 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Sarah Schurman
Before we dive in, let’s start with some background. Where are you from and what inspired you to pursue your MFA at UMD?
I am from Old Chatham, New York. I know a few people who received their MFA from UMD and always considered it as an option for graduate school. I moved to the area in 2014 and met up with a friend who was in the program and thought it would be an appropriate step in my development as an artist.
How did your sculptures Moire Study #2 and Moire Study #4 influence the ultimate creation of Moire Chamber? What inspired you to explore distortion of the senses, particularly vision and perspective?
I’ve been interested in moire patterns far longer than I even knew it had a name. The studies helped most by using different materials to explore what could be done. There were only two studies prior to making the room and i made a few more after. I guess I’m just fascinated by the fact that a static object can create a feeling of unease and disorientation.
Your works Moire Study #2 and Moire Study #4 both utilize steel. Although all three pieces interrogate perception, the industrial aesthetic and geometric precision of Studies #2 and #4 evoke a different sensory response than the light-activated stimulation of Moire Chamber. What inspired your choice of materials?
I feel most comfortable working with steel as a material, I usually tend to make works through a repetitive and meditative process. This probably is most evident in #4, however with this series of work (and my whole time so far in grad school) I’ve been trying different ways of working and exploring different facets of my approach to art-making. The studies are sculptures, but i look at them more as explorations of my process.
All three pieces invite visitors to pursue various viewing approaches, angles, and distances. How does external movement interact with and inform your work? To what extent is your art shaped by the viewer? How does the reciprocal relationship between artist and viewer complicate static and one-way notions of art?
I prefer to have my work as more of a relationship between the viewer and the object and less of a fixed narrative that the viewer needs to know to appreciate it. The way the sculptures are made invite the viewer to walk around and investigate them. I want people to see that there is more than one way of looking at something.
Moire Chamber is an immersive experience that induces a unique, visceral response in every visitor. In what ways can the instinctive responses of viewers comment on human consciousness as a whole?
When I was making Moire Chamber in my studio, Gina’s dog came in to check it out and immediately was weirded out. Consciousness is more involved when the viewer realizes that they are what is making the screen move, not the sculpture itself. My attempt with this piece was to create a feeling that people (and animals) haven’t felt before, including myself.
Enclosing the viewer in Moire Chamber swallows them into a participatory role in unfamiliar territory. How does the cave-like and electric environment impact the senses? What motivated the use of blue light?
This piece is my first attempt at a site-specific installation. After seeing other shows at Stamp Gallery, I always thought the alcove in the back was unusual. I hoped to take advantage of this space to create a more immersive environment that surrounds the viewer. The light was more of a necessity to view the screen and the pattern. My aim was to keep the room as simple as possible to draw more attention to the effect with less associations with color. I wanted the light to feel reminiscent of industrial cool-white light as opposed to a more amiable warm-white light.
Your work focuses specifically on visual disorientation, muting the other senses in the process. Do you think that isolating one aspect of perception amplifies or mitigates feelings of overstimulation?
Yes. I’ve found that Moire Chamber is best viewed by oneself when the rest of the gallery is silent. The shape of the room creates a slight noise dampening effect. This is something I’d like to explore if i decide to create more of these in the future.
The hive-like design of Moire Chamber Study #2 brilliantly illustrates how organized patterns can be layered and shifted in animating and dynamic ways. Did you draw from nature or other familiar places for patterns?
I got the inspiration for making this series of work by looking at the steel scrap pile with multiple layers of discarded steel mesh. The effect works best with uniform, systematically made pieces. Inspiration from nature usually plays an important role in my work, however this series is more about an industrial environment than that of biology.
On that note, can you talk a little bit about Moire patterns and how they’ve inspired you? How does the creation of Moire-inspired works intersect with other disciplines?
Even as a child riding in the car, seeing two chain-link fences pass by each other I found these patterns fascinating. One issue I’ve been having recently is that it is primarily a two-dimensional effect. Even with Moire Chamber the surface creates the effect and the sculpture is more of an armature to hold up the surface. The more curvature, the more irregular, diminishing the effect.
More broadly, how do you your three pieces interact in conversation with the other works of the exhibition?
As different as all of our work is, there is an odd cohesion among us. Whether it be asking each other for feedback and advice or just borrowing materials or tools, I think the community in our group creates the bond that makes our work fit together really well.
What was the biggest challenge regarding the creation or installation of your works? Your favorite part?
The biggest challenge in creating my work is more mental than physical. Having worked in museums and theatres building and installing other peoples’ work, I feel pretty competent as far as the making goes. The challenge for me is more conceptual and exploratory.
Since enrolling in the MFA program, how has your work evolved? What have you learned and where would you like to go moving forward? Feel free to share any upcoming shows or projects.
Since enrolling I appreciate more and more what a community of both similar and dissimilar artists can do. Getting feedback from a variety of other other artists is always advantageous. I came here to be challenged and have my work evolve. I hope in the future I can continue to be inspired by the people and things around me.
What would you like a Stamp Gallery visitor to take away from your works? From MEDIA LUX as a whole?
This show questions how art can be perceived. Whether internally, externally, auditorily, or visually I’d like people to be more receptive to different art and different environments for art.
Mason Hurley’s work is included in MEDIA LUX at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 2nd through May 19th, 2018.
For more information on Mason Hurley, visit http://www.masonvhurley.com
For more information on MEDIA LUX and related events, visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery.