Born and raised in San Diego, California, multidisciplinary artist Noelle Mason (b. 1977) is associate professor of art at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Mason has long investigated the politics of surveillance, much like an archaeologist would excavate geological strata. From the Rodney King beating to the Columbine school shooting to al-Qaida beheading videos, she has extracted images of violence caught on surveillance tapes and presented them through various artistic interventions. Her mediums range from hand-embroidered handkerchiefs to cross-stitched cotton compositions and from handwoven tapestries to photographic images processed with 19th-century photo-based techniques, such as cyanotypes and collodions. Her process-oriented, handmade works — often quite time- and labor-intensive — represent her artistic redressing and examinations of images that garner visceral responses in our omnipresent surveillance culture.
Mason’s artworks included in the exhibition belong to an ongoing project, X-Ray Vision vs. Invisibility, which she has been working on for over a decade. For this project, she has collected and transformed surveillance images and videos that border patrol and vigilantes on the U.S.-Mexico border have shared widely on the internet, as well as satellite images. Growing up in San Diego, Mason’s father was a SWAT officer, while her mother, a citizenship teacher, occasionally accommodated undocumented immigrant families. Having lived through this seemingly contradictory upbringing, Mason has long been interested in confronting broad sociopolitical, cultural issues head-on. By carefully transforming images that dehumanize immigrants and refugees into images that evoke their humanity and pathos, Mason invites viewers to face and reflect on the disquieting images she has mined. The artist’s hope is that we will come to better understand the hidden assumptions that we all make. In an interview, Mason succinctly stated, “When you have to sit with a sensational image in a quiet space like a museum, it changes that image.”
Mason holds a BA in studio art from the University of California, Irvine, and an MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has garnered many awards and residencies throughout her career, including the South Arts Southern Prize (2017) and Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Artist Grant (2013), as well as a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (2004). Her artwork has been shown in numerous exhibitions, including Skyway at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota (2021), The World to Come at Harn Museum in Gainesville (2018) and Florida Prize at Orlando Museum of Art (2015).