For Alden Mason, the 1960s had been a decade of searching for himself, working through nature and landscape paintings, then some hard edged, flat colored paintings styled after a Pop Art sensibility, and ending with more gestural works harkening back to deKooning and other abstract painters.
If the 1960s were about searching, the 1970s proved to be a decade of finding himself, as Mason produced some of his most memorable and groundbreaking work.
The "Burpee Garden" series dates from 1972-73 specifically but, in sensibility, goes on to include all five years or so of these oil paintings until 1977. The series title derives from the Burpee Seed Company catalog which Mason remembered from his early years growing up on a farm in the Skagit Valley. These large and sumptuous works were widely viewed as triumphant innovations as Mason's career progressed. With their audacious color, surprising scale, and exuberant abstraction, they represent a break with the somberly colored poetic narratives that had typified painting here following the advent of the Northwest School, and artists such as Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves and Mark Tobey. Mason's significance is obvious in the way the "Burpee Garden" paintings mark a distinct turn toward in that linear history. Along with other abstract artists working in Seattle such as Francis Celentano, Michael Dailey, Robert Jones, William Ivey, Frank Okada, Michael Spafford, and Margaret Tompkins, Mason influenced the development of many younger artists here.