Leopold Masterson


Lives and works in New York City


2023 – New Amphoras on the way!

“Blue Clouds with Empty Vignettes” (2022/23)

Glazed earthen ware with embedded pigments.  Height: 23 Inches

“Greek to me” (2022)

Glazed earthen ware with embedded pigments and gold luster.

Explosive Flowers (2022), Glazed earthenware with embedded pigments and gold luster.

Under The Big Tops

John Manion and Leopold Masterson

Curated by Sam Gasman

Ladies and Gentlemen, Thems and Theys, Boys and Girls, Children of all ages, genders and ethnicities, welcome to Under The Big Tops. In this space we dazzle the mind, marvel at the various ways of occupying a male body, and postulate just why the old patriarchal representation of men as hard, erect and tough has dominated for so long. Our fragmented heads and multiple faces morph into fruit, desserts and animals that flaunt the intoxication, joy and celebration for your every desire. The work embraces the vulnerable and emotional man yearning to burst forth like confetti out of all of us… even you ladies and thems. The ceramic sculptures are figuratively penetrable while the paintings are physically pierced, floating in the wind as you enter the Big Tops.

As ringmasters we bring to this soiree our personal histories as gay men: one being bi-racial/Chinese-American growing up within a traditional Christian anti-LGBTQ home and the other a life of excessive medication, petty crime and over-education within a secluded Catholic environment in the middle of the American abyss. Certain sculptures contain imagery, such as peaches and bananas, that allude to gay social media and cruising apps (a low rumble of giggles from the children in the audience). These exemplify joyful and lustful bodies, anticipating a hedonistic life of erotic sin frozen in time. Through offering cupcakes and sex, the queer or genderless characters tempt you to engage with desire.

Our fervid clowns drink alcohol, vape weed and offer their bodies as a juicy and salacious piece of fruit. Hermes, the ring master and the messenger of the gods, is nude as the day he was born as a goat and spreads the ecstatic joy of someone who has seen hell and been back again. Our exuberant many-faced clowns can have it all … but never all at once… always know your dealer kids. Our candy-colored nonbinary, biracial ice cream cone is ready to fall to the ground but is not ashamed of wanting to be picked up and licked up. A sea of faces, colors and history blur together to become the inviting banners leading you to the Big Top Tent. Our spectacle is responsive to the stigmatizing pressure on everyone of all cultures not to appear as weak sissies.

Afterall, the definition of a clown is an individual who wears unique makeup and a flamboyant costume. Clowns create a diversion to rescue, performing comedy to induce a state of open-mindedness to uncomfortable truths, and maybe wow the masses while they’re at it. Being a clown is hardly different from being an artist as neither are generally taken too seriously in popular western culture, except maybe by other clowns of course. The work in this exhibition shares a different, optimistic narrative outside of the still pervasive hetero-sexist value system of America. So please, sit back, relax and join us for Under The Big Tops. Step right up folks and let the show begin!

2022 – September

Under The Big Tops

Collaborative sculpture by John Manion and Leopold Masterson

Paintings by Leopold Masterson

Curated by Sam Gassman (@Efoxeharrell)

Opening Saturday September 17th, 6-10pm

Show continues Saturday September 17th – October 1st

a space gallery

315 West 39th Street (809)

New York City, 10018

leopold masterson artist

2022 – Summer – BOOK RELEASE

I recently worked on the new book, Chunghi Choo and Her Students, about the artist Chunghi Choo.  Arnoldsche and everyone involved were fantastic .  Dirk and Arnoldsche are so beyond professional and wonderful.

2022 – Summer – CATALOG RELEASE (Grassi Museum of Art)

The catalog for Schmuck* + Image is now available via Arnoldsche Publishers

* In case you don’t speak German “Schmuck” means “Jewelry” in English.


The Grassi Museum of Art, Leipzig, Germany

Almost unnoticed, a collection of contemporary jewelry has grown in the museum over the last decades, which is now coming into the public eye. The objects attest to the gradual emancipation of jewelry design as an autonomous form of artistic expression. But what are brooches, rings, and necklaces without one to wear them? Jewelry can only be realised on the body, as a representation of the self and/or as a symbol of perception to the outside world.

Thus, it is only logical to understand people and jewelry as a unity, and to photograph them with ‘their’ piece of jewelry. Personalities who are connected to the museum in various ways are ‘adorned’ and brought into the frame by aspiring and established photographers. In the exhibition, the pieces of jewelry correspond with the photographic works, making possible a deeper and more mutual perception.

curation: Sabine Epple

There is also a corresponding publication by Arnoldshe Art Publisher available here: https://arnoldsche.com/us/product/schmuck-image/

2021 – Winter

P.A.D Retrospective open until February 27, 2022 at the Walter Elwood Museum

In October 2021 the remainder of “Thousands of Dollars for Tea” was acquired by the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

2021 – Spring

Check out the interview with EV Grieve about Diamonds, Razors and Champagne:


And This: https://alumni.risd.edu/news-events/diamonds-razors-and-champagne

Friday April 9th, 2021 – Friday April 23, 2021


Marty Allen, Claudia Bitran, Carpo, The Curio, Cory and Nina Against The World, E. Foxe Harrell,  Samuel Gassman, Samson Huang, Tamara Johnson, Elle Lexxa, John Manion, Benjamin Peterson, East Village Vintage Collective, Rusty Anchor Antiques, Elizabeth Saloka and Jim Tozzi.  Also featuring artworks from Egypt to the 20th century.

In recent years, technology has reformed mass communication into various social platforms on which users can commodify themselves amongst “friends”. Identities are now fashioned out of products and lifestyles that maximize their value within consumer culture. The drunken allure of celebrity media and sponsored content fucks our stream of consciousness with flashes of elaborate luxury items pushing us to demand the next great indulgence. Situated in this orgy of excess, Diamonds, Razors and Champagne examines the unbridled appetite for more, more, more that results from the relentless stroking by commercial media.

The works included span a range of artists, objects and media, from videos to jewelry all the way through to alcohol, this shit bursts with hedonistic decadence while questioning its compatibility with the conflicting desires for lasting survival and self-actualization in the ephemerality of mainstream society. This exhibition manifests our growing tendency to overindulge our senses and seek out newer and stronger addictions. Much like they say in recovery, the first step is denying you have a problem and embracing one’s desires.

Portrait study #2 (margarita) (detail), 2020, by Tamara Johnson (in Diamonds, Razors and Champagne)

2021 Acquisition News

The original Generic Chain was collected by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France.  I am honored to be a part of such an iconic collection.

In other acquisition news a collector donated one of my conceptual media works to the Poster House…  I will have to discuss that piece at a later date and in a public forum.  Black Lives Matter.

2020 – Fall


The full Generic Series (books and jewelry) will be making its debut this October in Leipzig, Germany at the Grassi Museum for their 100th year anniversary of Grassimesse (October 23-25).  Check out more here:

2020 – Fall

The self-published artist books Volume I and the catalog for the exhibition 13 | 23 (created in collaboration with Tamara Johnson) are now live on the Smithsonian Library’s website.  Check them out here:

2019 – Summer

Acquisition News
4 Works acquired into the permanent collections at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, Germany


Away Message, Currently up at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park.
Check it out HERE!



2011 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) • Master of Fine Arts (Honors) • Providence, RI

2008 The University of Iowa • Bachelor of Fine Arts • Iowa City, IA

2007 The University of Iowa • Bachelor of Science and Nursing • Iowa City, IA

Public Collections

2021 Cedar Rapids Museum of Art • Cedar Rapids, IA

2021 Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris • Paris, France

2021 Smithsonian Libraries • Cooper Hewitt, New York, NY

2021 Poster House • New York, NY

2019 Grassi Museum • Leipzig, Germany

2018 Smithsonian Libraries • Cooper Hewitt, New York, NY

2018 Cedar Rapids Museum of Art • Cedar Rapids, IA

2017 Christian Peterson Museum • Iowa State University, Ames, IA

2016 Long House Reserve • Collection of Jack Lenor Larsen • East Hampton, NY


2015 Vermont Studio Center • Residency • Johnson, VT

2012 Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) • Fellowship and Residency • Amherst, VA

2012 BRIC Media Arts • Fellowship and residency • Brooklyn, NY

2012 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) • Brooklyn Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts Grant • Brooklyn, NY

2011 Ox-Bow • Residency and instructor (With Nicole Cherubini) • Saugatuck, MI

2011 RISD Graduate Studies Grant • Affected Productions • Providence, RI

2010 Graduate Fellowship & Teaching Assistantship • RISD Ceramics • Providence, RI

2010 Funded Proposal • Sitings 2010: Museum as Action • RISD Museum of Art • Providence, RI

Selected Exhibitions

2022 a space gallery • New York, NY Under The Big Tops (with John Manion curated by Sam Gassman)

2022 Grassi Museum of Art • Leipzig, Germany • Jewelry + Image

2022 Walter Elwood Museum • Amsterdam, NY • P.A.D. Retrospective

2020 Grassi Museum of Art • Leipzig, Germany • Grassimesse

2020 The Parlor • Frenchtown, NJ • Portraits

2019 Sweet Pass Sculpture Park • Dallas, TX• Away Message

2019 PAD Gallery • New York, NY • On The Lamb

2018 EFA Project Space • New York, NY • Nurtureart Benefit

2018 a space • New York, NY • Fucking Terrible Art Exhibition

2017 BRIC Arts • Brooklyn, NY • Truth

2014 The Emerson • Brooklyn, NY • Masks (Collaboration with Marty Allen)

2014 Katrina Van Tassel Gallery • New York, NY • Digital Skin

2013 Violetscafe • Brooklyn, NY • Fishing in the Dark

2013 a space • Brooklyn, NY • 13|23 Exhibition

2013 Greenville Museum of Art • Greenville, NC • Tongue in Cheek

2012 Ateliers D’Art De France • Paris, FR • The International Film Festival on Clay and Glass: Cup (2010)

2011 Samson Projects • Boston, MA • Chain Letter

2011 RISD Museum of Art • Providence, RI • Video Art Screening: The Cave of Time (2011) • Juried by Judith Tannebaum

2011 Rhode Island Convention Center • Providence, RI • RISD MFA Thesis Exhibition 2011

2011 Gelman Gallery • Providence, RI • Digital Plastic

2010 RISD Museum of Art • Providence, RI • Sitings 2010: Museum as Action, Column


2022  Arnoldshe Publishers, Stuttgart, Germany • Chunghi Choo and Her Students

2022 Grassi Museum of Applied Arts, Leipzig, Germany • Arnoldshe Publishers • Schmuck + Image

2020 Henderson, Aneeka Ayanna • UNC Press • Veil & Vow, Marriage Matters in Contemporary African American Culture

2017 Sharp, Sarah • Tool Book (Volume 1)

2015 Allen, Marty • Cisco Books • Emojis: The Secret Behind the Smile

2014 Masterson, Leopold • Self Published Volume 1 • Smithsonian Libraries

2013 Masterson, Leopold • Self Published • 13 |23 Catalog (Co-EVERYTHING with Tamara Johnson) • Smithsonian Libraries

2011 West, Anne • Moth Press • Mapping the Intelligence of Artistic Work