In 1972 in a small stained glass studio in Arlington, Virginia, Toby Mason began building the requisite transom windows and sidelights that established him in the field. After several years, commissions were coming in for pieces destined for Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman which became the bulk of his work. The complexity and scope of the projects increased until, through intermediaries, the artist's clients came to include princes and a king. Yet his pursuit of the art of stained glass and its future in decorative design was eclipsed by an exploration of the use of colored mirror. As early as 1971 the making of several mirrored jewelry boxes for use as movie props piqued his interest in the inherent possibilities of a reflective medium. Two portraits followed, one of which (a self-portrait) he still retains. The rest of the early work consisted of experiments in abstracts to develop casting techniques and to determine what this novel palette might allow.
The technology took almost twenty years to perfect. In 1992 after participating in several minor exhibitions, the artist presented his one man show "The Cosmos Reflected". The works were designed with larger pieces of colored mirror, cut using stained glass as a model, though the technique was mosaic. Later much smaller pieces of mirror were incorporated into the mosaics, and the work changed. Utilization of tiny pieces of glass that would not ordinarily find place in traditional stained glass work advanced the artist's skill as a glazier. He began to make generous use of the slender fragile pieces that have become signature to his work and brought about his return to a more traditional mosaic technique. In recent work the colored mirror portions of the mosaics are found in ever greater surroundings of fine slices of silvered stone.
This artist conceives of a mosaic not just in terms of its initial appearance but also in how the light flashes off the faces and the edges of the silvered tesserae, and the rhythm of this flash. Because the work is reflective, its appearance changes with each small movement of the observer; though the work is flat, there is within it that element of sculpture which considers the viewer as he moves. Yet Toby Mason is first a painter with a palette of colored mirror and stone.
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