Art Watch: Creating a real ‘Rubber Soul’

Local artist repurposes old rubber tires into beautiful sculpture

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

UTColLogoGalerAfter viewing the stunning show “Reconstructed Elements” at The Delaware Art Museum, I was fascinated to learn more about the local sculptor Helen Mason, who created the fluid, beautiful, black rubber abstract sculptures for this show. Each of the artists in “Reconstructed Elements” transform different raw materials into new abstract sculptural forms, and Ms. Mason’s work here is exclusively in black rubber.

Ms. Mason taught and chaired the art department at the Tatnall School for 15 years. In 1986, she received an NEA grant and spent 4 months in Japan that changed her life and work. After a solo exhibition, “FORM AND SPIRIT” at the Delaware Art Museum using modern industrial materials, clay, anodized aluminum and rubber, she continued to explore black rubber materials in rubber knotted necklaces, black teflon brooches with gold, silver, precious stones and rubber.


Helen Mason with some examples of her work in rubber.

She began to seek out recycling plants, rubber companies, bicycle and motorcycle shops to find more interesting materials, and subsequently her sculptural work became larger and more complicated, knotted, wrapped, and folded into fluid forms.

Once she started creating larger forms, Ms. Mason exclaimed, “There are no limits now.”

Having painted for almost 20 years prior to sculptural work, she still enjoys going back and forth from 2D to 3D works; you can see the influence of painting particularly in her wall installations.

She is inspired by abstract artists John Chamberlain, Murray, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and David Smith. She loves to work with “black”; the sameness of color and material unite the compositions of interconnected forms and shapes. The contours, rips and folds play with light and texture, and the tire tread patterns move beautifully with the shined finish of flat rubber sheeting. Her work is full of wonder, and a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary sculpture. She knocks it out of the park!

Also at The Delaware Art Museum “Dream Streets: Art in Wilmington 1970-1990” gallery talk and celebration is this Thursday September 17 from 6:30-7:30. Unfortunately, at the same time, Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts is holding a very dynamic discussion on the impact and utilization of technology by today’s contemporary artists, which is 5:30-7:30. Both of these art discussions are truly art events, with food, art exhibition and lively conversation.

image004If you are out and about on Friday, September 18th, the Oxford Arts Alliance has the opening party for their stunning National Juried Exhibition. Out of the 400 entries, 58 artworks were selected and the prize winners will be announced at the opening. The Oxford directors were thrilled with the turnout for the National Juried Exhibition, and the opening should be a fantastic evening.

Saturday September 19th checkout the western-most wineries on the Brandywine Artisan Wine Trail who all have art and wine festivals. A fun day to pop in from one to the next: Wilson Vineyards, Borderland Vineyard, Kreutz Creek Vineyard and Paradocx Winery.


A scultpture by Stan Smokler at Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford — featured as part of the Brandywine Artisan Win Trail. Photo by Carley Razzi Mack.

Most of the other Chester County wineries have sculpture artists showing as well, but check the website for best information ( Also on Saturday, art fun for the whole family is at The Delaware Art Museum’s “Korean Festival and Harvest Celebration” 11am -3pm.

The Chester County Art Association is celebrating the opening of their newest exhibition location this coming Tuesday, September 23rd from 5-7pm at The Montgomery County Community College (North Hall, 16 High Street in Pottstown). The “Meet the Artists” reception is free to the public and you can meet many of the finest artists of our area, who were each invited to show by the exhibition curator and CCAA director, Karen Delaney. Also, remember to mark your calendars for the historic upcoming “Founder’s Exhibition” at CCAA, showcasing 17 never before seen together large paintings by N.C. Wyeth, including the famous “Giant”, October 10-18th at Chester County Art Association in West Chester.

Lele Galer is a local artist who has chaired numerous art shows, taught art history and studio art, public art and has chaired, written and taught the Art in Action Art Appreciation series for the UCFD schools for the past 12 years. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and wrote for the Associated Press in Rome. She has been dedicated to Art History and art education for most of her adult life. Lele and her husband Brad own Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square and she is on the Board of the Chester County Art Association and The Delaware Valley Art League.

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