There is always more happening behind Madeleine Dietrich’s mixed media portraits than what first appears. Perceiving the moments of intimacy and connection that she visually captures, the viewer leaves knowing that what they saw was a glimpse of something much bigger. Windows into the webs of interconnection that are fundamental to human experience, Madeleine’s work has an immediacy of impact as we can all relate to it in some way. Her art is swathed in layers of photography, painting, drawing and printmaking and incorporates both fleshy and figurative palettes. The literal and figurative relationship between the artist and subject is made more intimate by her visceral process, as she subconsciously responds to her photography and actively engages in connection.
Madeleine writes on her images using a visual vocabulary.
She started out with printmaking and painting but pursuing photography after studying abroad in Florence. By her final thesis project at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Madeleine had united the mediums in a distinctive style. Although she loved photography from a young age, she always found it too clean and felt the urge to mess it up. Exposing, distorting and marking the image, the artist freely disrupts and interacts with the process and outcome. By painting onto the photograph in a similar vein to automatic drawing, she responds to and consequently heightens the feeling and tone behind the image. Rather than remaining at a distance from the subject, behind the lens, Madeleine interacts with the image in close contact, projecting her own emotions onto it and adding an introspective layer that is an extension of herself. In doing so, Madeleine effectively brings closer the image maker, subject and the person viewing the finished portrait.
Feeling close in times of distance.
During the Covid crisis, a time which has forced us apart and created a fear of physical intimacy, Madeleine’s exploration of closeness and connection appears nostalgic. The attempt to sustain these feelings seems futile when forced to remain physically distant, however, for Madeleine, the pandemic has magnified that intimacy manifests in many forms. As confirmed in a social-distanced event she produced in September, the audience experienced moments of intimacy within new boundaries and were able to deepen existing connections to those they already know. Feeling touched by each other without physically touching, the space between people was metaphorically lessened by connection. Touch became the title of Madeleine’s installation for Big Soft Illusion, a preservation of the collective memory of those who attended the event. Through monochrome snapshots of friends and collaborators, gestural mark-making and vibrant abstract shapes, the piece conveys the warmth and energy of the experience.
Madeleine strives for a ‘Queer Utopia’ at her events.
Madeleine combines audiences at her events as well as mediums in her art. Fusing together an array of drag performances, visual art and DJ sets, she brings together people who would not normally meet. Working for over 10 years within the field, Madeleine strives to create a space that celebrates individuality, community and inclusivity, where anyone can express their identity without judgement, questions or challenge and where people can connect on a new level.
images by PILOTENKUECHE
photographers as noted
The ideal of a ‘Queer Utopia’ also involves challenging the norm and binary and embracing our bodies, gender identities and sexualities, which she explores in her visual work too. From her Unlearn series about subverting the societal standard of beauty to her ongoing project, Friends + Lovers, in which the unique expression of persona and sexuality is emphasised, Madeleine critiques the unattainable mediated image of femme bodies. Photographing individuals she has a form of personal connection to, she communicates who they are and not who society wants them to be, uncovering the subject’s honest and raw self-expression. This process is facilitated by intimacy as it harbours trust and truth and means being seen and known as the person you truly are.
Madeleine’s upcoming project is a study of a friendship and an exploration of the complexity, inconstancy and expectation of connection. Working with distorted images taken by each other of each other, Madeleine responds to a meaningful friendship that emerged from conflict. Reflecting on the barrier between initially perceiving someone and what can come out of the interaction, she addresses connection as something that cannot be fabricated and fluctuates in accordance to the individual and their experience.
Madeleine has loved participating in Round 45 of PILOTENKUECHE and, like the other artists, has enjoyed feeding off others’ energies and experiencing an intimate environment that nurtures creativity. Her art, events and experience at PILOTENKUECHE all celebrate honest expression of individuals and real connection to others. To see more of Madeleine’s work, visit her website and Instagram.
images supplied by the artist
14-22 Nov 2020
Alte Handelsschule Geisserstr 75
Flat Time Experience
PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program, Franz-Flemming-Str 9