Madeline Wilson

Studio 104

I grew up as a military brat in the 1960s and 70s, moving from state to state, until, by the age of fourteen I had attended over 20 schools. I formed a fascination with the vast and changing physicality of our country, viewed from the backseat of a car on the way across the United States. These experiences became the foundation of a deep and lasting connection with the American cultural landscape.

The camera allows me to edit the environment, choosing fragments of a culture that is quickly becoming engulfed by Wal-Mart, strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments. These fragments are a connection to the past – those highways of my childhood, and our country in a pre-digital era. I am delighted to find an America described by a lunch wagon with a diorama of a grizzly bear in California and a wooden cutout of a cactus in Northern Michigan.

My current series explores interiors: recent adventures mining urban decay and the Rust Belt. I step inside forgotten places and seek to preserve them in bits and bytes. I can feel the presence of those who inhabited the spaces and I am moved to treat them with great reverence.

I create photography-based mixed media and constructions from found objects. I use objects locked in time: old maps, bits of rusted metal, yellowed music manuscripts. I weave paper archives and coat them with beeswax. These constructions relate visually and conceptually to the photographic excavation of history in the abandoned buildings.

Artists Statement • Broken Threads

A sewing station in a textile mill sits abandoned but intact, as if the worker walked out mid-shift and never returned. You can picture her sitting there, the color choices she made in gathering her work materials. A calendar lies on the floor open to the last day. An abandoned resort in the Catskills boasts poolside lounge chairs next to the encroaching fern forest, a nova ecology that patiently reclaims the site, broken threads of thousands of stories clanging against the walls.

We continue to build, celebrate, then to abandon our commercial icons. Nothing is permanent, though we built these factories and swimming pools of stone and steel – evidence of our hope and commitment. But we turn our backs on these places when they no longer serve our desires; they are left behind to decompose slowly back into the earth. We want to preserve our past, but broken threads tell only part of the story. These places sit in waiting and keep our secrets.

The photographs are means of preservation: small moments, splashes of color like sparks of memory just outside our reach, remind us that they once harbored our dreams and the objects of our desires. The Map Weaves reflect the changing landscape, boundaries broken by political change and environmental disruption. The Music Weaves touch on the broken threads of communication; a breakdown of the universal language. The pieces are deconstructed and reformed, the weaves sealed in wax, obfuscating meaning while preserving history.