Sharon Madanes Fuses her Passions of Painting and Medicine

Ladies Choice is an ongoing series highlighting female artists working in New York City and beyond. This series honors the power and ingenuity of women in the arts. Women have traditionally received much less exposure and recognition in the art industry. In their support of one another, these women stand as a testament to furthering the careers of female artists.

Sharon Madanes artistic practice is always informed by her personal experiences, which for the last few years has involved attending medical school. Madanes has always stayed committed to her craft no matter what else is going on in her life. This phase of her life has been no exception. In addition to a current exhibition at 1969 Gallery, Madanes is in residency at The Drawing Center. She lives and works in New York, NY.

You are part of a young generation of female artists hustling and gaining recognition in NYC. What does being a part of a strong female community mean for you?

I feel incredibly fortunate to have such strong female mentors and peers. After college, I lived abroad for a short period of time where I didn’t know many artists. That experience impressed upon me the importance of an art community. Being in dialogue with other artists is something I really value.

Which female artists, living or dead, inspire you most?

There are so many female artists that inspire me, including Elizabeth Murray, Carrie Moyer, Pina Bausch, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nicole Eisenman, Mickalene Thomas, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Martha Rosler, Rochelle Feinstein. I’m inspired daily by artist friends such as Genesis Belanger, Gahee Park, Corydon Cowansage, Jamie Felton, Kate Elliot, Johanna Jaeger, Tirtzah Bassel, Jesse Chun, Julia Hickey… the list goes on.

Have you experienced firsthand the underrepresentation of female artists in the art industry?

The art history canon I was taught in school underrepresented female artists. I was always lucky, however, to have teachers along the way that would shed light on this type of disparity and put forth an alternative history.

Have you noticed a change in opportunities available for female artists since you first entered the art world?

It feels like there is a growing interest in both living and dead female artists and in reversing generations of institutional sexism.

If you could change one thing about the current landscape for working female artists what would it be?

Women are consistently paid less for their work; art is no exception. NPR recently ran a story about how audiences consistently found computer-generated artwork they were told was created by female artists “less compelling.”  Their research showed that paintings by female artists sell at a 42% discount at auction.

I think increased transparency at all levels of the art world can help counter some of this bias that is difficult to unseat.

In addition to your art career, you are finishing up medical school, which has influenced your bodies of work. How do you see the two worlds interacting?

My personal experiences have always informed my work; my studio is where I reflect on experiences. This often entails placing everyday moments within larger political or social frameworks. Inevitably, this means that working in a hospital has informed my work, both in terms of subject matter and aesthetics. I think the reverse is also true; my studio practice has enriched my ability to care for patients and think about medicine.

Has art always been a part of your life? When you decided to attend medical school did you know you would maintain your practice?

I’ve wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember, and art has been central to my life. Growing up I spent a lot of time at the Art Institute of Chicago. In high school, I had a painting studio in the garage, and I haven’t stopped making work since. I’m deeply committed to my art practice; attending medical school hasn’t changed that commitment.

What themes do you explore in your work?

My work is currently influenced by working in a hospitals. In my studio I’m exploring actions and themes such as  hand-washing, the body as material, the meaning of a clinical gaze, the perception of time in hospital spaces, and the type of humor that is  used to cope with mortality in bureaucratic spaces.

What is your process like? How do you begin a work?

Drawing and writing is important to my process; I often start a painting by writing down a few thoughts or by making a number of sketches. But other times I just start painting and it evolves as I work on it.

Your work is currently on view at 1969 Gallery. Can you tell us about the show?

It’s a show curated by the wonderful Alex Allenchey that focuses on the action of looking, on the process of reading a painting as influenced by perspective and cropping. I’m a big fan of the other work in the show as well by artists Zoe Nelson, Rebecca Ness, and Dylan Vandenhoeck.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a show at the Drawing Center with artists Mike Crane, Gaudalupe Maravilla, Kunlin He, Lux Lindner, and Victoria Keddie.

At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?

Julia Hickey! She also runs an art space out of her studio called Matinee Projects, and up right now is a great show by my friend Thompson Harris.