INTERVIEW WITH AJ MASON
author Mara Schiavetti
AJ MASON LIVES MOST OF THE TIME OFF THE GRID WITH GIRLFRIEND TAYLOR FOSTER IN BOVINA, UP STATE, NEW YORK. HIS art IS BEAUTIFULLY COMPLEX, POTENT AND ADMIRED BY MANY IN THE ARTS AND FASHION WORLD.
AJ Mason photographed by Niko Margaros
Renaissance man AJ Mason, builds, paints and photographs fine art projects that speak to him in the moment. He uses found objects for his interior designs making them one of a kind collectables. He also models occasionally, but he doesn't regard himself as one, and does not have an agent. Mason appears to be in a depth of contemplation most of the time. He's quiet and reserved, that even in a crowded room he seems to observe each person with equal respect.
AGB: Hey AJ! I met you at a two-day pig roast in upstate NY exactly two years ago. I remember you as being very quiet and observing, and you wore a hat at all times–you still do. It’s almost become a trademark. I noticed you have more to say now.
AJ: Ah yes, the hat. I think more than anything, it’s an easy (maybe lazy) way to keep the hair back—but also a good defense for keeping ticks and paint out of my hair. I spend a lot of time in and around the workshop and the woods. For many years, I’ve appreciated a weathered hat that tells a story. I’ve had a couple over the years and each carries accidental markings of past experiences and projects—a personal journal of sorts.
When you and I met, I was sharing a house in Woodstock with two longtime friends from Chicago. I’d lived in the house a few years prior and landed back there on a return move from Los Angeles. It was a great time with lots of old and new friends coming up from the city. Without boring you with any sort of self-analysis, I think my silence, and (at times) removed observations stem from having grown up in a close and loving extended Midwest family, but one that was very loud and opinionated. For me it’s a path of least resistance to wait for others to get their “words” out before really connecting to that person—a trimming of the fat in a way—I think it’s better for the heart.
AGB: I know you do some modeling, and you make things. Tell us about that. Also can you share with us who are some of your favorite authors or artists?
AJ: I’m not sure I qualify as a ‘model’, but I have done a handful of shoots—most of which have been for friends or magazine profiles. My younger brother Jonas has worked in fashion for many years. Through his work, I’ve been close to the industry and have made a lot of great friendships from that.
Hard to speak about favorites, I don’t feel well-versed in art history and literature, so it becomes a matter of re-reading old books, or something someone gives me along the way; however, I do find myself re-reading Thoreau, C.S. Lewis, and Bukowski the most. When it comes to art I’m most often drawn to work that’s expressive or dark, because it seems to carry the most truth. I love the freedom of art, where even if abstract, an individual can visually release whatever it is they are feeling. I would love to have a solo exhibition of my own work in the near future, but feel I’m still finding my way—maybe subconsciously keeping one at bay, until I feel comfortable with the steps required to produce a show. Until then, I have a fairly consistent network of clients that affords me the freedom to build and sell directly.
A lot of the design pieces I’ve made, have come out of a desire to have objects and furnishings that are unlike ones that can be purchased by the masses. And while most are functional (furniture, lamps, frames, shelving), they all have components that differ from their original purpose. I feel a strange connection to objects that have been discarded, forgotten, or worn down by ‘man’. For example: taking an old trailer stand and merging it with a rusted water pipe and then dressing it with storm fallen branches, to create an elegant lamp. I find fulfillment in stepping back to view the finished sculpture in it’s new state, while imagining the ‘life’ or purpose those components had before they got to me. Similar to my hats, they have stories that go beyond something new and sold in a retail environment.