Online Only “She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms”: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason

February 27, 2021 - May 23, 2021

“Get the mind out of the way…let the painting speak.” With these phrases, Emily Mason (1932-2019) expressed her desire to be guided by intuition, allowing each stroke of paint or alteration of a printing plate to suggest the next move as she created a work of art. Born into a family with an artistic legacy that stretched back to early American Republic painter John Trumbull and included her mother, the noted abstract painter Alice Trumbull Mason, Emily Mason carved out a nuanced artistic path of her own. Moving between Europe, New York City, and New England over the course of her long career, she was exposed to a wide variety of art movements, including Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. 

“She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms”: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason (Re-opening February 20 - May 23, 2021) takes its title from the opening line of a beloved poem by one of her favorite writers—Emily Dickinson. Characterized by brilliant hues laid down in thin layers of varying transparency, often superimposed in surprising color combinations, Mason’s work is the result of a rare alliance between spontaneity and premeditation. The Bruce Museum exhibition showcases her earliest experiments in oil on paper and in printmaking. In the decade from 1958 to 1968, she searched for ways to manipulate oil paint in order to produce a variety of effects and gain mastery of her medium, while searching for her unique artistic voice. Often she pushed these experiments forward using the intimate medium of oil on paper. Years later, in the 1980s, when the Associated American Artists Gallery commissioned Mason to create an edition of prints, she was faced with a new challenge: how to adapt her artistic method, rooted in painterly spontaneity, to printmaking, an art form that requires a highly controlled and collaborative approach. After master printer Anthony Kirk suggested using carborundum to make her plates, a technique developed by the Surrealist artist Joan Miró, Mason embarked on a new period of intense experimentation from 1985 to 1996, as she strove to adapt the Spaniard’s method to suit her own creative needs. The result was what she called ‘printed painting,’ i.e. prints that translated the layered, intuitive, and spontaneous aesthetic of her oils into the print medium.

“She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms”: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason focuses on two intensely experimental bodies of work as she wrestled, in each case, to master a new medium. Mason’s early paintings in oil on paper and early prints illuminate a lifetime devoted to creative spontaneity and richly demonstrate the subtle, complex, and beautiful esthetic that was distinctly Mason’s own. Organized by Bruce Museum The Susan E. Lynch Executive Director and CEO Robert Wolterstorff, Bruce Museum Adjunct Curator of Art Kenneth E. Silver, and 2020-2021 Bruce Museum Resident Fellow H.S. Miller, the exhibition will be accompanied by a digital lecture series and numerous special events.

“She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms”: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason is supported by a Committee of Honor Chaired by Lily Downing and David Yudain, Mr. and Mrs. William Fitzgerald, Ellen Flanagan, Felicity Kostakis, Gale and Bob Lawrence, Cricket and Jim Lockhart, and Nicole Reynolds. The Bruce Museum is grateful for exhibition support from Rockefeller Capital Management, Greenwich, Seiden-Luke Fund for Exhibitions and Publications, and the Connecticut Office of the Arts.


Virtual Exhibition Only