“Shadows Through a Petal,” Emily Margarit Mason’s new show at No Land that opens on October 27, features photographs of staged scenes reflecting on place and memory that draw imagery from the beaches of Florida where she grew up to the mountains and deserts of New Mexico where she currently lives.
In Mason’s body of work, photography stands in for memory and experience. “What happens between experience and memory?” she asks. “Is memory real to the experience? What does it look like?”
Mason’s process begins by collecting raw materials that are layered together with her own printed photographs in outdoor arrangements and finally photographed.
“My work mainly comes from experimentation,” says Mason, who is fascinated with the way certain rock patterns mimic a sandy river bed that then mimic a cloud striation in the sky. “I like to work with a set-up for multiple days with natural sunlight in New Mexico, depending on the time of day the light and shadows can vary drastically. Prior to the final staging I am constantly collecting images, cutting them up and pinning them to my wall to spend some time with different shapes paired with the image.
“I am able to play with the objects within my built sets in a more intimate way than if I had just photographed the object,” she continues. “The act of incorporating natural raw materials within my photographs makes them feel closer to the place or memory I am attempting to depict.”
A graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art who worked for a summer at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, Mason was attached to her parents’ Canon AE-1, 35 mm film camera when she was growing up. She switched to digital cameras halfway through her college career.
“It wasn’t enough for me to just press a button and make a picture,” she says. “I had to find a way to use my hands.”