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Artist Jill Madden

Jill Madden grew up in coastal Rhode Island, attended Middlebury College where she studied Mandarin Chinese and art. She studied Chinese ink painting in Hualien, Taiwan for two years, taught Mandarin and art in Sitka, Alaska for several years. then returned to the east coast to attend graduate school Jill studied at the New York Studio School, received a post-baccalaureate degree from Brandeis University, and an MFA in painting from Boston University, where she held a Constantin Alajalov scholarship, and studied with John Walker and John Moore. Jill’s work has been shown in New England, New York, Philadelphia, Ireland and England. While a resident artist at the Vermont Studio School, Jill studied under Lois Dodd, who remains a friend and mentor. Jill is the recipient of a Winsor and Newton Emerging Artists award, a Basin Harbor Fellowship, a Custom House Fellowship in Westport, Ireland, a Baer Art Center Artist Residency in Hofsos, Iceland, a Jentel Foundation for the Arts residency in Banner, Wyoming and a Fairfield Porter Foundation fellowship on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine. Jill currently lives and paints in Weybridge, Vermont.

"“What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside your heart, not whether it’s flat or rugged, rich or austere, wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame.”

Richard Nelson, The Island Within

If you have ever stood under a towering Sitka spruce or on the rim of a volcano, it is easy to see why Nelson was so passionate about conserving that last wilderness. Likewise the unique wilderness of the Green Mountains has found its way into my heart, creating a strong connection to place. My painting explorations and wanderings encompass a swath of mountains, rivers and forest along the spine of the Green Mountains. I have come to know this landscape intimately. Recent flooding and its effect on our natural environment has pushed me to draw attention to the land around us. I bring my interpretations of this ecoregion to others in my community not just for its beauty but also as a reminder of what just a few conservation-minded individuals have created. This landscape containing the largest mixed forest wilderness area, one of the country’s largest bodies of freshwater, and the largest flyway for migratory birds in Vermont, has become my primary studio and a great source of spiritual and physical renewal. Shifting seasons, changing temperatures, and evolving flora provide daily challenges and contrasts between experience and memory. While setting up my easel in the middle of the woods or a mountaintop, I observe and share our interconnectedness with this land.

“The Green Mountain National Forest has over 400,000 acres and contains 2000 archeological historic sites, spanning from Abenaki to colonial times. The Joseph Battell Wilderness consists of 12.336 acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Breadloaf Wilderness Area has a total of 24,986 acres, it is the largest wilderness area in Vermont.” -Green Mountain National Forest Website."

Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.

I live and paint in rural Vermont. After studying language and art at Middlebury college, a stint at the New York Studio School led to graduate school at Boston University. Just to keep life really complicated I had two babies during graduate school. When they were small I got in the habit of waking very early and painting, which I still do. The sunrise, moonrise, and moonset never fail to bring me awe, which I like to share in paint. I go to a lot of painting shows, and have been influenced mostly by Lois Dodd, Susan Lichtman and Fairfield Porter.

What kind of work are you currently making?

For the past few years I have been painting small plein air paintings in wilderness areas. Or if I am caring for my parents, sunrise paintings at a wildlife refuge. I have also been filling a lot of small watercolor sketchbooks with gouache studies. This process has focused my compositions and use of color. I recently started working a little bigger, and also started drawing on topographical maps. Maps interest me as an artform in their own right, but also as a view of where I am physically, and then what I am looking at layered over that.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

The night before I get my kit together. Depending where I am going I have different size easels or gouache kits. I wake up 1-2 hours before sunrise, make coffee and head out. If I am hiking or skiing I take my lab Cali. We hike with headlamps, set up and draw a bit, then paint for a few hours. I frequent the same spots because the light always changes and there's something intimate about returning. After painting we hike down, jump in a river, and head back to the studio. In the winter I will be on skis and ski back to the car. The afternoons I work on prepping canvases, map drawings and larger studio paintings, clean brushes. I don't go back into my plein air work. Fridays I do most of my business stuff- applying for grants, sending paintings out, organizing shows, and meeting with people. Everyday has a slightly different flow which I like.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I got back from the Fairfield Porter residency in July, and right now I am reading Justin Spring's biography of Fairfield Porter and Anne Porter's poetry book Living Things. I am also reading Breath by James Nestor about the science of breathing. The last show I went to was Lois Dodd's show at the Hall Art Foundation which was amazing, and Claire Sherman's show at DC Moore in NY

Where can we find more of your work?

More of my work can be seen on my website or instagram: @jillmmadden I have a show up now @ Vermont Natural Resources Council in Montpelier, VT and some work at my galleries: Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland, ME and Jessica Hagen Fine Art in Newport RI

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