Noelle Mason (2010)


Noelle Mason

TimeOut Chicago by Candice Weber

Noelle Mason’s risky choice to flirt with shock art pays off in “Bad Boys,” which investigates, through craft, where violence and masculinity overlap.
Mason spent four years examining an iconic surveillance image of Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to produce the 32"-by-40" cross-stitch Nothing much happened today (for Eric and Dylan) (pictured, 2005–09). The centerpiece of “Bad Boys,” it recalls the media’s relentless coverage of the shootings. Nothing much… and the related Love Letters (white flag)—39 handkerchiefs embroidered with entries from Harris’s journal—reflect so much labor and care that they evoke America’s collective worrying about its boys without offering an easy explanation for the violence.
Mason recently told us she sees parallels between Klebold and Harris’s actions and adult warfare. Her immersive installation LAN Party or National Take Your Daughter to Work Day includes a model of an M700 sniper rifle, through which one can view green-tinted combat footage from the first Gulf War. In Sonata, the Tampa- and Chicago-based artist transposes data from an Al-Qaeda digital video of a beheading into sheet music, laser-cut on 12 sheets of leather vellum. While Mason’s representational works have more explicit shock value, Sonata’s abstraction of violence and resulting coldness make it more disturbing.
By turning highly charged subjects into refined art forms, the artist avoids shrill political overtones or blunt value judgments. Instead, she subtly questions the taboos and sacredness forced on shocking images to remind us inexplicable violence is part of our culture—something that must be acknowledged before it can be overcome.

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