Cover Story: Mason Lends Art To Rubadeau's New Telluride Mystery

[click “Play” to hear vintage Roger Mason on painting and book covers]


Gatsby_CVRdj_front_300 If you live in the R-1 school district, you know the name “Rubadeau.” But I am not talking about her. I am talking about him. After a nine month publishing odyssey tracked closely by Telluride Inside… and Out, author Bob Rubadeau just completed his latest mystery, Gatsby’s Last Resort: A Telluride Murder Mystery. And the author picked the work of another Telluride celebrity, Roger Mason, for the cover art.

On Tuesday, December 7, 6 p.m. in the Program Room of the Wilkinson Public Library the final chapters in Wit Thorpe’s trials to find the real killer will be unveiled – along with Mason’s deliciously dark image.

If you don’t know the name Roger Mason, you may also not know that Telluride’s Main Street is the artist’s personal atelier. Or that his Mona Lisa is one beautiful older woman whose recent facelift was a major success. I am talking about the New Sheridan Hotel. You can spot Mason a mile away: he’s the guy standing next to an easel, brandishing brushes, who vaguely resembles Roman Polanski, dressed up like Jackson Pollack, spattered paint all over his denim overalls. Eccentric? Youbetcha. Good? Ditto.

Mason is the Leonardo of the bass and the Mingus of the palette, in other words, something of an artistic polymath.

In the late 1970s, Roger Mason did a radio show with comedian John Goodman. They called the program “Citizen Kafka,” which Mason once described as “Fire Sign Theatre gone awry.” At roughly the same time, Mason was selling paintings in New York’s SoHo district, before the downtown address was invaded by J. Crew, technology, sentimentality, didacticism, and Jeff Koons’ pigs. And in the 1990s, he toured in a trio with world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman playing to pumped crowds at places like Wolf Trap and Tanglewood. Mason also played bass with The Band. And like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps on keeping on.

From time to time and like so many of his fans, Bob Rubadeau would watch Mason paint. Like most locals, he certainly knew Mason’s work, which graces the walls of the New Sheridan and used to hang at Harmon Brown’s popular restaurant at the old train depot, the place the Ah Haa School for the Arts now calls home. When it came time for Rubadeau to choose the cover art for his latest novel, “Gatsby’s Last Resort: A Telluride Murder Mystery,” he knew he needed an image with big curb appeal to break through the shelf noise. A Hopperesque nightscape by Mason became the author’s first choice.

“So my phone rings about two months ago.  “970” area code….Bob Rubadeau….Bob Rubadeau? Sounds really familiar, but after spending two decades in the high mesa sun, I can’t remember whether I had breakfast with the guy or not… But I knew I knew him from somewhere… ,” explained Mason. “Bob asks if he could use one of my paintings for a bookcover, a novel, yet…Without hesitation, I recall saying ‘Use ’em all…’ ‘What do I want in the deal?’  ‘Nothing,’ sez I. ‘Just make sure my signature is visible….’ The painting Bob wants is the one I did at night on Colorado Avenue, (Main Street) a long time ago, a large canvas, done from where the crosswalk meets the drugstore. The drugstore is lit by a streetlight, and at the time, the front of the drugstore was illuminated hot magenta. I mean, dum-dee-dum-dum. Oh, and I used a 50-cent palette knife to do the whole job. Cost $2 now.”

To learn more about Mason and The Painting, click the “play” button and listen to his interview.

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