Sleuthing Alden Mason

The painter Alden Mason (1919-2013) was becoming real to us as we spoke to his family, friends, colleagues, and former students over the course of a long research weekend recently. We looked at a wide range of his work, many family photos, listened to anecdotes and the narrative began shaping into the  whole person. Monday morning brought an appointment at the University of Washington Archive in the library where Mason’s “papers” are housed. The University of Washington campus in Seattle is huge (student body 46,000+), and when we came out of the parking garage I took a picture of the door and the location, like the “bread crumb trail” of storybooks…so we could find our car again…hopefully…

Once signed in and settled with our two boxes of archival papers, we began reading through…lots and  lots of show cards

Including one from close to home with lots of resonance for the scholar

(who has written monographs about Charles Heaney, Manuel Izquierdo, George Johanson and Harry Widman) and the notation that Mason was invited to the Johansons’ for cocktails after the opening (aligning with George’s memory of Mason coming over once to his house).

Here’s a show card for a show Mason and second wife Karen had together…Mason working with the acrylic in squeeze bottles at this point…

An actual Burpee Seed catalog  cover…

No pens or drawing books allowed…only pencils…

No copier either, but luckily I had a thumb drive on hand for scanning this interview…

a couple of Mary Randlett photos from the newspapers of the time (Mary Randlett is a prolific photographer who photographed many of the artists working in both Seattle and Portland in the 1960-s and 70-s leaving scholars with some wonderful images…and her archive is housed at U of W as well)

Randlett 2

and really, then the amazing “synchronicity-in-all-things” photo. The night before at the Pete Souza lecture we had sat in front of the photographer Greg Gilbert who my brother knows and has been doing photos for the Seattle Times for 50 years.  So, here is a photo of Alden Mason, painting on “the bridge” by photographer Greg Gilbert.

(and to jar your memory, here is the bridge…now in Gene Gentry McMahon’s studio)

Oh I love these moments….

So to celebrate our last night and to thank B & LA, we took us all to dinner at Etta’s where I couldn’t resist a quick drawing…

A last toast to a job well done but a bit more to look at, of course…

So we headed to the nearby Four Seasons Hotel to find a Burpee painting “Brown Bingo” from the 1970’s that hangs in the lobby…(Claudia Mason had told us about this one).

And Claudia said to head through the lobby and go left because there was a beautiful Mason drawing across from the desk, and she was right…

I’m glad the drawing is on view and happy to have seen it, but artists don’t like to see their work right behind the food and coffee set-up, I have to say…

On the way out of the hotel I took a quick view of the Great Wheel and the dark Puget Sound beyond…the sort of photo the phone camera doesn’t do too well with…

We headed to McCaw Hall (home of Seattle Opera) to peek in the nighttime windows and try and locate a series of four murals called “Promenade” painted by Mason for the Seattle City Light electric utility building. We walked the length of the building and at the end found a view of another Seattle landmark,

and spotted the murals in the restaurant…

Yep…we’d have to try and get in to McCaw Hall  in the morning…but for now back to Ballard for a last view of this tea house … pretty mundane by day,

absolute magic by night…

A few phone calls the next morning gave us an appointment with the stage manager/facilities manager for McCaw Hall who would meet us and take us in to see the Promenade murals from the City Light building…

As luck would have it, her husband is a former student of R’s and she remembers hearing mention of Roger Hull and his teaching.  A quick photo was taken and sent off to her husband, and we visited a couple of other beautiful paintings in the lobbies including this Fay Jones from 1989 and a huge Mark Tobey collage with photo-signature…

The we head home stopping at the Tacoma Art Museum for lunch (some people never can pass a drinking fountain without getting a drink, and for other people…well they can’t pass an art museum…)

in the studio

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Bonnie and Roger for the glimpses of these research trips. Just so interesting to see the serendipity that your connections bring.
    We are entering a new era of life without the rag business which is in the process of being sold.
    Hope to be done and back in Oregon in late June. Be well.

  2. incredible adventure! who knew that being a sleuth for art & artists could be so exciting? we marvel at how the two of you go to the source(s) in person and document the experience in this blog and later in roger’s beautiful prose.

      1. I think your a mocha ,coffee person so you would go with Roger to Star Bucks or Dunkin Donuts ,where if you didn’t care for anything coffee a tea house just might fit the bill.😀

  3. Showed this blog to Florence Feasley, wife of U. of W professor listed in the 1963 program of OR and WA artists. She recognized several names and enjoyed the trip “down memory lane”. She is a neighbor still creating art.

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