Art in the Spotlight – Terrence Mahon, Recording social injustice with sculpture
By Dee Dee Colabella
The past year has certainly been unprecedented for several reasons and many found themselves locked down at home consuming the news, trying to make sense of all that was happening in the world. This moment in history will undoubtedly be the inspiration for many works of art for years to come. Terrence Mahon, an artist from Ridgefield, was touched profoundly by something that came through the news, and his reaction has now become solidified in metal and plaster.
“People consume the constant stream of news, and it is ubiquitous, causing you to become overloaded with a sense of numbness,” said Terrence Mahon reflecting on his piece. “Reading about something and caring about it is one thing, but doing something about it is a whole other matter. That’s the bell that rang on May 25th in Minneapolis when George Floyd was murdered on the streets of America. The days that followed with protests and riots which came in the wake of that cold-blooded murder hit me with an innate intensity, and I knew I wanted to change how the narrative and events are understood and discussed.”
His installation piece Police Line hit the public eye while displayed at RPAC Gallery’s Seeing 2020’ exhibit, September – November 2020. While entering the gallery, visitors were confronted with an 8’x4’ platform of a chalked outline of George Floyd with the sculpture of protestors gazing down. The expressions and strong body language boldly demonstrated their anger and disgust from another intance of police brutality.
“Anyone who walked into the gallery couldn’t help but encounter it, creating a confrontation that wouldn’t allow you to close your eyes to it,” said Mahon. “This was another type of reporting of the event because it was setting it in the street. The last eight minutes of George Floyd’s life was ground into gritty asphalt.” The creation of the protest relief sculpture capturing the anger and intention of “enough is enough” was the spark that ignited the rest of Mahon’s current collection, and its origin is a mystery even to the artist himself.
As a resident artist at the RPAC Art Center, he arrived at the studio sleep-deprived on May 27th and sketched at his drawing table before taking a walk for lunch. When he returned, he saw something he didn’t recognize; rough sketches that resembled protesters in a series that appeared like cryptic heads and shoulders. It was a view of the protesters. Following this moment, Mahon’s training and history as a designer were kindling for the fire to bring this project to life.
“It was the strangest experience because normally, as a creative designer, you know everything that’s on that table,” he recalled. “However, I didn’t remember intentionally creating the sketches. I understood this had developed subconsciously, so I began to process it. I knew it was a one-point perspective of the protesters and the collective rage and angst of this mass of people; a human bomb waiting to go off. The pin was pulled, and the bomb would go off because people can’t be treated like this forever. A lot of it had to do with the anticipation of cities going up in flames. These are diverse cities with high racial tensions, and I knew this well because I lived in all of them. To me, they were tinderboxes”.
Mahon grew up in Cleveland, OH, and graduated as an Industrial Designer from the University of Cincinnati, Design and Architecture Program before moving to Milwaukee, WI, to pursue his career. In 2018, he moved to Ridgefield, and was in a creative, exploratory mode enabling him to join Thrown Stone Theatre doing set construction and creating larger installations for ACT of CT. In 2019 he joined RPAC as a resident artist.
“The pieces I create reflect on the totality of my design and art experience. Everything is at play; composition, delineation, materiality, processes, and interior architecture. Before creating the George Floyd installation, I focused on creating relief sculpture wall art working with more abstract shapes, textures, and lighting.” Mahon’s art has a prism-like quality and is known for interior design as it utilizes varied lighting to contribute to its character. His gilded gold and silver pieces are particularly luminous at night, blurring the lines between sculpture and wall art.
Mahon is currently working in a private studio to create a series of large installations similar to “Police Line” George Floyd. Works in progress convey the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling, Breonna Taylor, and Freddie Gray using diverse materials and conceptual design to report on the way they lost their lives, all with the same intention when he began this endeavor. “I want people to be moved the same way I was moved, in a visceral way to the point of wanting to become involved, because as I said before, there is a difference between caring about it and getting involved.”
Mahon’s new Social Injustice series premieres in the new D.Colabella Fine Art Gallery, 446 Main Street beginning early 2022. The series will be featured in galleries and museums in cities across the country. Details are available by calling RPAC Gallery, 203-894-5609.•