All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine
Nancy Terrell -- November 2005 Issue
Susanne Yardley Mason's Seaviews
Susanne is an artist who shows great imagination and color in her work. She attributes this to the importance of the sea in her life. “I grew up in Sea Girt, on the New Jersey Coast, swimming almost before walking. The first words I spoke were ‘see boat’! Our family home was an oceanfront Queen Anne Cottage on what was called Quaker Row so the ocean naturally became my first sea view and focus - as did boats of all kinds! My mother used to refer to my twin brother and me as her “sea babies” because no one could keep us out of the water! We loved to ride the small waves at low tide from the sandbar up to the step at the beach.
“My love of art, however, was inherited mainly from my grandfathers - John Mason, was an inventor, painter and a designer in silver for Tiffany & Co. He created the Chrysanthemum Pattern among others and eventually had his own fine arts store in Manhattan. My maternal grandfather, Edmund R. Willets, was the founder of the renowned Willets Belleek Co. in Trenton, N.J. – china known for its transparency. Our homes were filled with paintings, china and silver so I grew up with a great appreciation for art.
“Just before WWII, my parents decided to live, during the winter, in their Manhattan apartment. My brother and I attended Friends Seminary on 16th St. before transferring to George School, a Quaker Boarding School in Pennsylvania. Both had really wonderful art departments, which is where I ‘woke up’, so to speak. Graduating in 1945, I attended the Art Students League in New York – one of the great art centers of the world, which was an enormous eye opener! My first sale was when the League bought a life drawing of mine - quite a thrill! In 1948 I studied with American Impressionist, William von Schlegell, who had a studio in Mamaroneck NY and another, along with his art school, in Ogunquit, Maine. I studied as his student at both studios. Both towns are sailing ports where I sailed as well as in Southport, Connecticut. I always loved being near water and sailing places.
“Much later - in the 70s - I started showing my work at the Betty Parsons’ Gallery on 57th St., as well as in several other galleries. I was included in many museum exhibitions; my work now is in permanent and private collections such as the Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY and the Delaware Art Center Museum in Wilmington. I was also nominated for an award in The American Academy of Arts and Letters 1980 Exhibition - a feather in my cap.”
After a 20-year-marriage, Susanne divorced and bought a converted barn in Amagansett, Long Island, N.Y. She had a separate 1700s Pennsylvania barn dismantled and brought up to her property, situated a mile from the ocean. It was reassembled with her new partner, Ed Morgan, to use as a studio. Her new large abstract paintings sold well.
In 1993, she and Ed settled in the BVI. They bought a Herreshoff 28 sloop, Ruadfor sailing and also designed and built a new home, Villa Carousella overlooking Jost Van Dyke with a lovely view of the Caribbean Sea. Downsizing her art, she began working with fabric collage, reverse paintings on glass, and more recently, computer art. Her images are of sky, water, sailboats and tropical gardens, opening an entirely new market for art lovers ( www.bviescape.com) “The sea has always been, and is to this very day here in the BVI, my point of reference - the biggest and grandest focus and influence in my life and art - besides my children and grandchildren.”
It was a joy for me to visit with Susanne and see her newest endeavors. Our islands are fortunate indeed to feature such talent.