Meet Celebrity Guide Madolin Maxey

Colors and shapes lead the eye in a vigorous dance around her canvases. At first glance, her paintings seem to depict familiar landscapes and actual locations, yet they are only loosely based on reality. Madolin paints from memory, challenging the conventions of the medium with poetic grace and playful energy, Her emotional reactions to a place or an experience become a story told through color and line.

Madolin Maxey is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design. A Providence resident since 1982, she has been a member of the Providence Art Club since 1996. Although primarily a painter, she has built teahouses, designed extensively for theatre, and initiated public art projects in Providence. She maintains a studio in Providence, and can also be contacted through the Providence Art Club.

Growing up it was expected that I would attend university and be a scientist or teacher or mathematician. Mother was in law in Washington. That was the child she was raising.  But I was born for a different life, one I knew nothing about then.

I see everything in odd colors and distorted relationships.  I am watching you. I will use the story of you. I will put you in an alternate landscape where I imagine you should be. I can be playful and exciting. I can be devious and secretive. I have a desire to be noticed, yet a love of privacy. I am an artist.

Each day I enter my studio and hear a soft voice say, “Yes, this is where I belong.” I wander the room, register the hum of the air filter, inhale the smells of cobalt, cinnabar, cadmium, and ochre. I touch the objects I have created and become the woman who resides there.   I have graffitied the walls with stories, stories in paint.

Canvases from three feet to twelve feet long hang or lean against the walls. Colors and shapes lead the eye in a seductive dance around the studio.  The wet paintings immediately capture attention. At first glance they seem to depict familiar vessels and actual locations, but they are only loosely based on reality.  After observing one of the paintings for a time, you may begin to realize that it is also observing you. Indeed it may not be a pile of domestic objects in a kitchen but the woman herself. And if you never see her watching you she will no more care than I do. My emotional reaction to someone, some place, or an experience is mine alone to tell.

I paint from my experiences and right now that corresponds with a recent visit to Albuquerque. I am not a plein air painter who goes into a strange landscape and records only what they observe.  I seek a deeper truth. I must visit a location several times, even years, until I hear the story it is telling me. I need to know the landscape and people intimately. I know the Italian landscape well and exhibited a large group of paintings two years ago. In September I intended to again paint Italy, specifically the objects and structures of Rome.   I created three unexciting paintings from sketches I made in Italy in the summer. But I am not a good girl and could not listen even to myself.

I went to our southwest not for the first time at the end of August.  The sun was hot on my shoulders, the sand soft under my sandals as I roamed along the Rio Grande, the colors were muted golds, sepias, terra cottas and throbbing blues.  Now back in the studio, I am driven by the light and heat of Albuquerque. I arrange and rearrange the clay pots on my table, listening for their story and transforming their reality to suit my whim.  Covered beneath layers of new paint are the old paintings of Rome. My husband says that I cannibalize my own work, but I feel it is justified. Perhaps a good girl would save her weaker children. I am driven by the passion of the moment and rarely look back when the decision is made.

As with all series of art works, as with all passion, this work will race to a frenzied climax of nine, fifteen, perhaps twenty paintings before exhausting the story.  The rules we are taught to play by are for structure alone, tools to be used and tossed when appropriate. I was warned not become an artist but this is exactly who I am.   It is my career, my profession, my obsession. I can exist and thrive only because I do not play by others’ arbitrary rules.