I am a multidisciplinary artist whose focus is the natural world. Working intuitively, I use an open range of media to develop bodies of work, including ongoing painting journals (since 1992), salt paintings and drawings (2013-current), floating light sculptures (2013), time-lapse photography and video (2010), body drawings (1995-1997), and diary drawings and paintings (1992-1994).
Water became my primary media after I started my painting journals in 1992. In them, I developed a non-linear way of working, taking my lead and leaving the final outcome in part to the elements, to chance, and to time. The practice of working with water in the journals led to making art in partnership with the environment, including rain, heat, and cold, while marking the passage of time. Since 2010, I work in partnership with nature – at times setting up ‘situations’ in which natural elements interact, and working with that outcome. The ecological history of the oceans is the source of my current work. I draw with a hyper-saturated salt solution, and work with the salt crystals that grow as the water evaporates.
I live and work in Austin, Texas. My BFA is in painting from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and my MFA is in Painting/Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. I have worked in art related fields as the Director of School 33 Art Center in Baltimore, a curator at the Montserrat School of Art, a writer as the lead visual arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman, and as a professor of studio art and art history at Austin Community College. In Austin, I founded Look See Productions, which occasionally organizes thematic exhibitions.
Interview with Scott David Gordon on Austin Art Talk Podcast:
Glasstire Review: Water Works and Desertscapes in Fort Worth
Madeline Irvine’s paintings on black paper are dramatically different in scale and subject matter from the smaller works in the room, but their strong linearity binds the show together. The unusual white of Irvine’s imagery derives from her application of a hyper-saturated sea salt solution that forms crystalline salt structures as it dries. Some areas become opaquely white with a thick layer of crystalized salt, and some become nearly transparent so the black paper shows through as traces of evaporated water are revealed by a white salt outline. The dried sea salt solution also leaves a glittery residue that can’t be captured fully in photographs. The subtleties in the contrasting transparencies and opacity of the salt crystals that create the sinuous forms are the most rewarding aspects of Irvine’s use of this media.
Madeline Irvine, Above and Below. Seasalt crystals on paper, 7.5 x 18′
Previously on view at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, these organic works inspired by cypress roots and kelp forests feel more expansive in the main gallery at Artspace111. The two larger installations, titled Above and Below and Small Leap, are pieced together from square sections of paper to avoid damage to the fragile salt surface, a problem the artist encountered in earlier iterations of the work. The trailing forms appear continuous from one sheet to the next, effectively creating a larger organism. The works are a manifestation of Irvine’s ongoing interest in ocean and climate-change issues. More specifically, the current salt paintings reference the ecology of mangrove forests, “…one of the three buffer zones between ocean and shore. These fertile zones — coral reefs, giant kelp forests and mangrove forests — feed a huge percentage of marine life and protect our shores from the full force of the seas. Mangroves are extremely adaptive trees, and here I focus on their roots, which live undersea for half [of] each day.” (This Irvine quote is excerpted from an Austin Art Talks podcast episode.)
Studio visit with Artpace curatorial resident Juan Canela