On Art & Heart / Rhonda Mason
Describe the scene before you right now.
Funny you should ask. The boys have gone to school, and Rick is at work. But even though I’m home alone, I’ve hidden myself inside my walk-in wardrobe—aka my secret writing room. I put a desk in there over the weekend so that I have a place to hide myself when I don’t wish to be disturbed. Our home is not tiny by any means, but we do have five young boys and the house echoes quite a bit. The fact that I can close two doors between my new sanctuary and the rest of the house makes me feel slightly more ‘insulated’. Anyway, yesterday I had such a frustrated day of writing; it took me eight hours to write about 800 words. It was only later at night that I realised I should’ve come in here to write instead of trying to soak up the morning sun in the front bedroom. There are simply too many distractions out there. In here, it feels like the only thing I have to do—need to do—is write.
It’s actually quite pleasant and spacious in here. My desk faces the end wall, and my back is to the door (and the clothes). I’ve kept the desk quite bare: apart from my MacBook Air, I have a framed print by Bianca Cash leaning against the wall, an IKEA light that I can plug into my laptop, and a small willow branch in an amber glass bottle. Right now, I have the door closed and only the IKEA light is on, so it’s nice and dark and cosy in here. It reminds me of Amy Tan’s book, The Bonesetter’s Daughter. The main character, Ruth, has a Cubbyhole—a former pantry turned home office—and she thrived in it because the ‘limited space inspired limitless imagination’ (p. 35). I love that!
Describe a moment from today that you want to remember.
When I was helping my three-year-old put his shoes on this morning, he looked straight into my eyes and said, ‘I love you, mummy.’ Little moments like that make my heart sing.
What fills you with joy?
Road trips. Discovering ‘new-to-us’ bush trails. The sound of bell birds. Looking for shells on the beach. Reading. Writing. Painting. Kisses from my three-year-old. The look in my four-year-old’s eyes when he’s about to tell you a funny story. The way my eight-year-old finishes my jokes before I have a chance to. My nine-year-old’s compassion. How reliable and dependable my ten-year-old is. Drinking Milo with my husband in the evenings. The anticipation of coffee in the mornings. Beef sukiyaki at home in winter. Eating chicken wings. Fellowship with our church family on Sundays. Reminiscing with old friends. Joking with my boys and my husband. Laughing until my tummy hurts. Knowing that I am loved.
What fills you with hope?
Knowing that there is more than this life we have under the sun. Knowing that I will meet my Maker one day. Knowing that, on that day, I shall see and hold my son Cameron once more.
What makes your heart ache?
Every night, I ache with the knowledge that the boys will not be little boys for long. I ache with the guilt that I haven’t been a better mum. I ache with the desire to protect them forever. I ache with the fear that they will be hurt. I ache with the realisation that there will come a day when they will leave home. I ache with the longing to always cradle them in my arms. I ache with the determination to be gentler, more patient, more attentive, and more present.
Describe a piece of art that is precious to you.
There is a sculpture in my studio. It sits on the top shelf, next to a model ship that Rick’s grandfather made with his own hands. We have had the sculpture for eleven years now. It was given to us by our minister’s wife, a couple of months after Cameron died. She’d been taking an art class at the time and, after we lost Cameron, she decided to make this sculpture as her major work. The sculpture itself is of a mother nursing her child. The mother holds her child close in an intimate embrace. Her forehead rests on her child’s face. The child grasps his mother’s bosom. From afar, they look like they are one. When Margie presented me with the sculpture, I was incredulous. Speechless. I remember we both had tears in our eyes as I held her gift in my arms. ‘I modelled it after a famous artist’s sculpture,’ she told me. ‘Does it have a name?’ I asked. ‘Evening,’ was her answer.
Can you name a few artists who inspire you?
On Kawara, Bobby Clark, Magda Skupsinska, Benjamin Ewing, Rebekka Seale, Nirrimi Firebrace, Nirav Patel, and Shoko Wanger.
Are there any books about art that you have found helpful?
Art & Fear by Bayles and Orland is a classic. I read it almost every other week. I also like Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig. I love the glimpses into working studios and I’ve appreciated the advice shared by the artists in the book.
Is your art driven by heartache or hope or both?
I started writing in earnest after Cameron died, twelve years ago. Later, I learnt to express my grief through photography too. My paintings, however, come from a place of love and hope. The same goes for this new imaginary series. So, my answer is: both.
You can read the other posts in this series here.