I am not an art fundi. I went to see the Judith Mason exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg a few years back and I was introduced to her work from there.
I visited the Constitutional Court works of hers thereafter and came to understand her greatness as an artist.
Born in Pretoria in 1938, educated at Pretoria High School for Girls and at Wits, she mostly worked as a reaction to political events. Thus it is that my favourite work of hers features a story from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is of a blue dress. It refers to the tale of a woman stripped naked by the security police who fashions herself a pair of panties from a plastic bag. The story made me cry, not because of what was done to her (the TRC was full of terrible tales) but because of her resourcefulness at taking back her dignity through rubbish.
The Blue Dress is part of a triptych which is owned by the Constitutional Court (appropriately) entitled The Man Who Sang and the Woman Who Kept Silent. It was created in 1998.
Judith Mason was internationally recognised as a leading visual artist for her work which spanned more than four decades. I highlight only two works. Her self portrait which image was used on the cover of the catalogue for the Standard Bank exhibition and the triptech referred to in this article. I know that she will be missed by many in the art community, in addition, of course, to her own family.