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Resounds: Sara Mast and Christine Joy

 Christine Joy (left) and Sara Mast at the Yellowstone Art Museum
Corby Skinner
Christine Joy (left) and Sara Mast at the Yellowstone Art Museum

Passage is an exhibition currently showing at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings that explores the mystery of nature through the transformation of materials, texture, and form. Bozeman-based artists Christine Joy and Sara Mast first exhibited together in 2022 at Aunt Dofe’s gallery in Willow Creek, Montana, and have incorporated new works for this special exhibition.

Mast and Joy’s artistic practices are rooted in familial histories, leading them to processes of gathering and excavating — resulting in a reliance on materials as significant conceptual elements in their work.

Willow sculptures by Christine Joy and paintings by Sara Mast on display at the Yellowstone Art Museum
Anna Paige
Willow sculptures by Christine Joy and paintings by Sara Mast on display at the Yellowstone Art Museum

The large, twisted willow forms by Christine Joy are the result of a rhythmic process beginning with the hunt and harvest of willow in autumn — followed by sorting, bundling, and storing. Joy’s love of process was discovered alongside her mother in the 1970’s. After taking a rug braiding class, Joy and her mother spent many mornings hunting in thrift stores for wool garments, which then led to preparation for washing, cutting, and finally braiding. Overtime, Joy moved on from rug braiding, leading her to a period of experimentation, and ultimately to reclaiming and reorienting her love of gathering and process with willow, grounding her to the earth.

Sara Mast, a descendant of miners from Cornwall, England, resides on the site of Storrs, Montana, an early Anaconda Company mining town. Today, she reclaims her relationship with the earth by incorporating PEM (plasma enhanced melter) glass, a byproduct of plasma gasification, an advanced waste management technology that turns any kind of trash into inert, non-toxic glass and clean fuels. The result is obsidian-looking rock forms. PEM can be crushed and sorted into various sizes, and then is incorporated into her encaustic, oil and cold wax surfaces. Mast writes, “PEM glass is not just another art material, but represents a profound paradigm shift in using technology to heal our environmental dilemma by keeping waste out of landfills and greenhouse gases out of the air.

Christine Joy was born in upstate New York. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1976 with a B.F.A. in Printmaking. In 1980 after completing a master’s program in art therapy at Vermont College she moved to Montana.

Sara Mast received her MFA from Queens College in New York. Her work is in over thirty corporate, private and museum collections worldwide and is featured in several publications that include: Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax, and Art & Science Now. Mast is a drawing and painting professor in the School of Art at Montana State University.

Corby Skinner is an independent marketing professional with an enormous capacity for assessing issues and creating positive, effective messages.
Anna Paige is a Montana-based journalist, poet and educator. She is originally from Wyoming and has lived in Billings for more than a decade, where she co-founded Young Poets, winner of the 2021 Library of Congress Award for Literacy.