Our latest post is up on our Art21 “Centerfield” column. This week, I interviewed artist/songwriter Rachel Mason, whose project The Ambassadors is included in the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s (MOCAD) current exhibition “Life Stories.” Mason also had a 500 Words piece on Artforum.com earlier this month. Those of you in Chicago will also remember Mason’s show “I Rule With a Broken Heart” at Chicago’s Andrew Rafacz Gallery in 2009. A brief excerpt from my interview with the artist follows; please click on over to Art21 blog to read the full piece!

Rachel Mason’s work is not easy to neatly summarize. I’ve been following her projects for several years now, and I still have difficulty explaining what exactly it is that she does. Rachel’s art is fluid — it’s always easing in and out of different forms. She is a songwriter and performer; she’s an actress, of a sort, who performs as if channeling the poetic inner souls of controversial leaders like Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega. She’s also a sculptor who crafts idiosyncratic figurines that look like a cross between Hummel figures and Honore Daumier’s sculpted bronze caricatures. During the 2008 election season, Mason sketched political candidates in the process of stumping for votes, and she’s also choreographed a number of live group performances. For me, the salient feature of all of her work lies in its sense of empathy. In a world that seems to grow more grim and globally conflicted with each passing decade, Mason’s projects operate according to this blissfully simple principle: imagine yourself walking in the shoes of someone else, if only for a few brief moments. (Read more).

Rachel Mason, Mobutu Sese Seko performance from "The Songs of the Ambassadors Vol. 1," at Miami Ice Palace, 2008.

Claudine Isé

Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a writer and curator for the past decade, and currently serves as the Editor of the Art21 Blog. Claudine regularly writes for Artforum.com and Chicago magazine, and has also worked as an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Before moving to Chicago in 2008, she worked at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH as associate curator of exhibitions, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as assistant curator of contemporary art, where she curated a number of Hammer Projects. She has Ph.D. in Film, Literature and Culture from the University of Southern California.