Roger Mason

Mountain Life

More than any other building in town, the New Sheridan Hotel is the embodiment of Telluride's charm and history. So it's no surprise it's one of Roger Mason's favorite subjects to paint. "I deal in anachronism and memories, he says. "When I travel, I go straight to the spiritual heart of the place, the place that defines its environs. As one of Telluride's oldest establishments, the landmark hotel could certainly be characterized as the spiritual epicenter of the town. Mason has had a running show in the lobby for a decade and dubs it his "world headquarters.

Though a native New Yorker, Mason is repeatedly drawn to Telluride for its character, but even more so for its brilliant, chiaroscuristic light and colorful architecture. It's fitting for his fauvist approach and the bold palette of oil paints he employs. The town's box-canyon setting offers dramatic lighting with heavy shadows that play upon colorful storefronts and powerful, craggy mountains.

Mason sets up his easel right on West Colorado Avenue, which often draws a steady stream of onlookers. But audiences don't intimidate Mason: He's an extrovert, bold and somewhat eccentric. His portfolio reflects his personality, a potpourri of whimsical, slice-of-life subject matter, which he portrays through abstract realism.

Mason's paintings span the map far beyond the town of Telluride: You'll see a Corsican church, a bar in Havana, a brothel in Paris. Yet others are more situational, like a perfectly shadowed pay phone on a brick wall or a portrait of a woman reading in a hotel lobby.

Though you may stumble upon Mason on the streets of Telluride, you won't find him on the slopes. "I can't afford to break a thumb, he laughs. Prices range from $1,000 to $19,000, depending on size and detail.