Every once in a while in Durango, an art show will generate buzz months before it is hung. Usually, it’s an artist who hasn’t shown widely in a while or someone whose work is simply a must-see. Jeff Madeen’s show – sharing the bill with his father, Bud Madeen – qualifies as both.
The show, “Obedience, Conformity, Apathy ... ‘it’s all good!’” runs through March 26 at the Durango Arts Center, with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. today.
The show features a multitude of mediums from Jeff, including neon, paintings, wood block prints, sculpture and video. On the other side are paintings by Bud, who is travelling in from Illinois for the show, work that spans topics such as American politics; our country’s history; John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations; the Berlin Wall; Vietnam War; Independence Day; Watergate; and women’s rights. Most of Bud’s political paintings date back a number of years, though new for the show are Jeff’s written rebuttals next to each of his father’s pieces, which ties in well to the show’s not-so-understated political influence.
Why did you decide to do a joint show with your dad?Off the cuff five years ago, my dad said, “We should have a show together.” It didn’t resonate with me at the time, so I let it steep for years. And then I realized I had the ability to do a solo show at the Durango Arts Center; there’s only been two solo shows there. I think they don’t want the other artists in town to say, “Hey, wait a minute, how come that person gets one?” To me, my father’s work deals with questions. I’ve been researching every one of his subjects and coming up with a clarification, a rebuttal, an answer to the questions.
Will he be OK with your rebuttals?Oh yeah, he’s heard my rants. I don’t know if he was a Democrat or a Republican. His work “Teenager” is me at age 12. I was kind of a juvenile delinquent, and I think he was wondering what the hell I’d turn out like.
Did he influence you to become an artist growing up?I guess he did; these paintings were scattered around our house. He designed our house with an architect. But he never talked to me about their meanings or anything like that – he’s not a real verbal guy. I started researching stuff around 9/11, to understand that, and then what really got me into it was trying to understand the financial system, the international bankers and what they do. My work has been about that for a long time. I was always trying to educate myself.
You work in just about every different medium there is. Yeah, that’s my MO. I was asking people for dead technology, making art out of those things, obsolescence. Repurposing junk. I’ve gotten away from that a little bit. I’m a designer by trade, so most of my work tends to be on the modern, clean side.
What I’m trying to do is to get people to allow themselves to question. Questioning creates a lot of fear, so people just don’t go there. You should talk to your friends and associates about what the hell is going on in this world. It’s worse than it’s ever been in terms of how we are controlled. We have access to educate ourselves, we can research what they’re doing and share it with our peers; but they also have the ability to control us with things like this [holds up cellphone]. I clearly see the propaganda. The more you’re attune to the system, the more you can see it clearly and fast. They feel like they’re the ones who know best.
How would you describe the Durango arts community? There are people that are making a nominal living off of art, and selling mainly in Durango. But for the type of work I do, it’s tough. I don’t do it because I’m trying to make a living off it, I do it because I have to. If I was in jail, I’d make art. If somebody cut off my fingers, I’d try to make art still. It’s hard to corrupt artists, because they’re already not making any money. But there is an oversupply of artists. If there was a scarcity of art, there would be more sales, more value.
The show’s title: “Obedience, Conformity, Apathy ...‘it’s all good!’” What’s that about? That’s what they want us to be. The powers that shouldn’t be. The ones that run education, the financial system, the political system. They want us to be conformists. If we’re all the same, they only have to have one kind of thought process. I hear all the time, “it’s all good!” Well, it isn’t all good. That’s what I’m trying to say.