„I try to operate on that emotional, visceral level – just put a mark down and respond“


Working on a magazine and simultaneously curating a show in NYC, artist Madeleine Dietrich has had some busy weeks. An interview about intimacy, events production and the future of art shows.

Von Fay Lazariotis

Portrait of Madeleine by Tom Wynne

VASiSTAS:
What are you currently working on?

Madeleine:
I’m preparing a show in New York called “Future Paradise”, featuring work from myself and three other women painters. It’s happening at The Living Gallery outpost in the Lower East Side, a space dedicated to emerging artists. Really excited. I’m also working on a magazine called „FREE LUV“ that will come out in february, each issue benefiting a different charity – the first issue benefits the TransWomen of Color Collective. It features mostly queer, women and non-binary artists and artists of color from all different parts of the world. The first issue has work from a lot of artists I’ve met on my travels, including a bunch of Leipzig artists. I wanted to put together a sex-positive magazine because there’s been so much negative press surrounding sexuality this year, and as a survivor, I’ve had to re-process a ton of trauma. It feels good to make something inclusive and celebratory.

VASiSTAS:
You showed your work in the „Cheap thrills“ show at „Links neben der Tanke“ in Leipzig last year. It was an event that you organised and curated yourself. Your„friends and lovers“ series, that features photographs of people you have different relationships with, was amongst the exhibited works.

Madeleine:
I’m really interested in the figure and exploring intimacy as well as different kinds of relationships, which all comes together in my mixed media work, painting and events. I want to create a sort of intimacy and inclusiveness in my work, celebrating all different body types and orientations. When I organised this event at „Links neben der Tanke“ it was so surreal and nice to see people in front of my works, trying to interpret the relationships in a way, like „Sooo how do you think she knows these people?“. „Friends and Lovers“ and my new series Private Life both actually started out as a visual diary so it was at first really hard for me to show them, since they are very personal. I was first inspired to paint on the photographs when I studied in Florence. Our drawing teacher emphasized automatic drawing.

“I try to operate on that emotional, visceral level and just put a mark down and respond. It becomes like solving a visual problem.”

Friends + Lovers (series)
11″x17″, mixed media (acrylic, wax, pencil, charcoal, marker, tape) on digital print

VASiSTAS:
If you talk about automatic painting, did you ever paint on one of the portraits and ended up being surprised like „Oh god I did not know I felt like this about that person“ – Portraying an emotion you weren’t aware of before?

Madeleine:
Yes, of course. They also reflect how I was feeling in that particular time. It’s a way for me to work through things. When I write on the portraits for example, sometimes it’s really dark because I had some difficulty in processing experiences of sexual assault – particularly when travelling alone through Italy. So some of the portraits of those wonderful subjects I met also contain a darker side because of certain situations I found myself in in the past.

VASiSTAS:
It’s a different approach as well to go through your emotions via photography, painting or writing.

Madeleine:
I guess because you’re right there with painting. With photography there’s a space between you and the image itself. That’s probably also why I have the impulse to paint on my images because it feels more directly connected to me and what I’m trying to communicate.

VASiSTAS:
You are distorting the photographs in a way by painting on them.

lovers and friends

Madeleine:
I was always really interested in printmaking and the sort of art where you can see the „artist’s hand“ in it. When I became interested in photography I always had the impulse to fuck it up a little bit. Otherwise it’s just too clean for me.

“We have so many digital images thrown in our faces all the time that I want to give my work a more personal touch.”

VASiSTAS:
How about your new work that features mainly abstract paintings?

Madeleine:
All the palettes are really fleshy so it’s still pretty figurative to me – the palettes I’m choosing and the visceral, automatic process feel really figurative and natural to me. I don’t think it’s a huge departure from photography, there’s a lot of similar line work. It’s all related in one way or another.

VASiSTAS:
If you were to make an exhibition and had to put up your new abstract works alongside with your „friends and lovers“ series. How would you want them to be exhibited?

Private Life (series)
18”x24”, mixed media (acrylic, wax, pencil, gouache, marker, tape) on paper

Madeleine:
I’m actually trying to figure this out with my upcoming show. I want to exhibit a couple of the abstract pieces maybe in a big grid, some sort of geometric form.

” I really want to mix it all together which is kind of my approach for everything, even when planning an event: I want to have a DJ! And a drag queen! And hip hop and disco and house! And rap performances!”

VASiSTAS:
Intimacy is also a subject you seem to be inspired by via poems and literature. Like when we talked about the books of Ben Lerner, Maggie Nelson or the poems by Richelle Kota featured in your upcoming magazine. They all have some sort of honesty in their works in common. What are your main influences in that way?

Madeleine:
I’m inspired by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Patti Smith, Elena Ferrante, Maggie Nelson and the beat poets. I always loved German expressionism and printmaking like Käthe Kollwitz and the abstract expressionists, the colour field paintings by Rothko, but also Joan Mitchell, Norman Lewis, Philip Guston and Francesca Woodman. I like Agnes Martin just because of the idea behind a painting, the visceral, spiritual connection. When you look at those, some of them just look like graph paper but when you see that it’s all hand done it’s so simple and yet complicated.

VASiSTAS:
I can see literature by the beat poets exhibited alongside with your work. Maybe it’s about the revealing, honest parts of your work.

Madeleine:
I’m a terrible liar so I guess I don’t have much of an option.

VASiSTAS:
Maybe being a terrible liar makes for a great artist. Do you think this also goes for event production?

Madeleine:

“Event planning and art is quite similar in that way.”

You have an idea in your head, you write it down and then in the making it just becomes this whole other concept in 3D. It never is exactly how you pictured it. I really enjoy that process. I learned a lot about events and production from the people I came up with. It’s so important to have people in your life that inspire you and struggle with the same things. Like my friend who started an international live painting competition who was one of my first friends in NYC, or my friend Tiffany who’s a production designer and event producer. It came from this idea that there’s nothing interesting happening that we would want to go to. We thought „Why keep submitting your work and spend all this money if we actually have the creative freedom to do this on our own?“

Private Life (series)
18”x24”, mixed media (acrylic, wax, pencil, gouache, marker, tape) on paper

VASiSTAS:
You do most of the work on your own in your events. You’re a little bit like the one-man band of events production.

Madeleine:
I hope to one day have a team around me so I don’t have to do every little thing on my own. It’s stressful but also really freeing to have this creative control over your work. One of the things I love most about events is that you can combine different elements to draw a different crowd. Some people are coming to see the drag show, some are friends with the DJ, who don’t know anything about drag culture and don’t give a shit about art but they might take a look tonight. Or people that might not go to a queer event, but here they are with all these queers.

VASiSTAS:
How was it to study at FIT in NYC?

Madeleine:
It’s the Fashion Institute of Technology, but I was in the Fine Arts department which is a small section of the school. It’s a state university so you´ re required to take math and science and English courses, and I minored in art history. You don’t sleep a lot for four years. But it was a good experience. The classes were small, in a way you’re left to your own devices and encouraged a lot. It was cool to be in that environment because the focus wasn’t exactly on fine arts as there are a lot of different kinds of people with different passions.

VASiSTAS:
Ad Reinhardt once said that college is really important for an artist because he learns only there that it’s unnecessary.

Madeleine:
I know a lot of artists who are self taught and are doing well for themselves. Of course I have a little regret for going to college just because of how crazy these student loans are in the States. But overall I’m super grateful for the experience, as I never would have gotten to study abroad in Italy. That part was very influential because being immersed in a different culture kinda cracked my world open, and also it was more of a Fine Arts-geared programme where we had access to our own studio and a darkroom. I mean right now I put up all my work in my tiny bedroom and it drives me crazy from time to time because you wake up and you’re like, in it right away. I also would have never gotten to intern and work at Milk Studios without my degree – that definitely solidified my interest in event production.

VASiSTAS:
What is the future of art shows going to look like? A lot of times it all feels very hoity-toity.

Madeleine:
I think there’s a certain vibe with these white cube galleries. For example if you don’t know a lot about art you view these galleries as something very exclusive, so you don’t want to go there. I never want an event that I’m part of to feel that way. I want everyone to feel welcome. And I guess this comes back to this feeling of intimacy.

“Everybody’s here. Maybe everyone’s here for different reasons but maybe we can talk with each other.”

I think it’s so silly that everything is so separate. Like fashion people saying that runway shows are the only way of true modern art and painters are like, fuck photography. Why? It’s all art. it’s all some form of expression we can relate to on some level.

 


The exhibition “Future Paradise” is on view February 21 & 22 in The Living Gallery Outpost, New York City. Her magazine “free luv” will soon be available on her instagram. More info about Madeleine and her art can be found  on her website.

 

Fay Lazariotis

written by Fay Lazariotis

author | M.A in Art History, lives and works in Leipzig, Germany

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