Lawrence Hall gains permanent art exhibit

Written By Nicole Pampena, Copy Editor

For 30 years, Jack Tomayko, former board of trustees member and CEO of the Tomayko Group, has collected the work of internationally renowned painter Frank Mason. Even better, he knew Mason and his wife personally.

Through his connections and enthusiasm for art, Lawrence Hall Gallery, just outside of the George Rowland White Performance Center, now houses a permanent Frank Mason gallery that is free and open to the public.

“This really is a gift from the [Frank Mason] Estate,” Tomayko said.

The “gift” of such one-of-a-kind works of art comes after Tomayko voluntarily ran a temporary Mason exhibit in Lawrence Hall Gallery eight years ago.

The permanent fixtures will include an acrylic-enclosed statement of his work and legacy along with his picture.

Out of the 28 original paintings brought in, 16 were chosen to be on display, ranging from seascapes to landscapes to portraits. Each individual piece is either oil on canvas or oil on panel and will be labeled with its date and title.

During his lifetime, Mason adopted a classical style, strongly influenced by techniques used in the 17th and 18th centuries and revered for mixing his own oil paints.

His traditional view of art eventually led him to becoming a sometimes controversial voice against “cleaning” paintings, a process used for preservation that tends to remove depth and “flatten” the image.

“He was controversial in a sense that he was committed to the perseverance of art,” Tomayko said. “He has a strong passion against taking off varnish … He felt that it was a disservice to the artist.”

Mason’s care and dedication towards the art community shows in the value of his works, many falling within a price range of $5,000 to $250,000.

No numerical value was specified for the pieces hanging in Lawrence Hall Gallery. However, the exhibit “seems more valuable,” knowing his other paintings are worth so much, according to Maytte Subirana, a sophomore dance major.

Several of the paintings caught Subirana’s eye while rehearsing a dance in the gallery.

“I noticed how it’s a series, like the ones together are similar,” Subirana said.

The organization of each painting is credited to the assistance of figurative sculptor and freelance art-handler Duncan MacDiarmid, who has worked at the Frick Art & Historical Center for 20 years.

“You move things around to get each painting to look as best as it can,” MacDiarmid said. “It’s kind of like being a photographer; when you’re taking a group shot you move people around.”

MacDiarmid has handled Mason’s work before, specifically for the previous temporary exhibit in Lawrence Hall Gallery. Size, direction of the portraits and grouping of subject matter were all factors considered while assigning each painting its permanent location.

The final 16 chosen to be on display utilize the entire left side of the gallery. The right side of the room was intentionally avoided in fear of sunlight exposure damaging the paintings.

Tomayko plans to, instead, place contemporary works on the right side of the room and continue the variety of short-term art shows the gallery has held in the past. No date has been established as to when the contemporary art will be added.

Until then, Mason’s artwork speaks plenty for itself on its own.

“Institutions don’t get a collection like this,” Tomayko said. “They get a painting or a work.”

Almost every decade is represented in those hanging on the walls of Lawrence Hall Gallery, where the public as well as attendees of events and open houses are welcome to view them. The exhibit officially opens on Oct. 26.

“I think Anna, his wife, and Scott, his nephew, the three of us are really committed to his legacy,” Tomayko said.