A local art legend

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Durango artist Jeff Madeen has got some problems with authority – but it’s OK, he’s working through those issues via his art. He’s dabbled in almost every artistic medium there is (he enjoys the challenge). Jeff will graciously share the billing on his new show, up at the Durango Arts Center this Friday, with his father, Bud Madeen. Bud’s paintings address American politics, our country’s history, the John F. Kennedy and MLK assassinations, the Vietnam War, Watergate and Women’s Lib; while Jeff’s work responds to these issues in the form of photography, wood block prints, multimedia sculptures, paint on canvas, installation and video. We spoke to Jeff about his artists intentions, his fears for America and what we can all do to resist the “powers that shouldn’t be.”

The show’s title is “Obedience, Conformity, Apathy … it’s all good!” What’s that about?

The powers that shouldn’t be, that’s what they want us to be – conformists. The ones that run education, the financial system, the political system. 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.

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. 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. My rebuttal in writing will be next to each one of his paintings. I started researching stuff around 9/11, to understand that; and what really got me into this was trying to understand the financial system, the international bankers and what they do.

I want people to question. Questioning creates a lot of fear, so people don’t go there. But 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 cell phone]. I clearly see the propaganda. The more you’re attuned to the system, the more you can see it. They feel like they’re the ones who know best.

There’s several pieces in the show involving guns. What are your thoughts on gun control?

I used to be a major liberal. But why should only the government have guns? In history, every time the government takes away its citizens’ guns, horrible things happen. Lots of people die. Mau, Stalin, the Bolshevik Revolution and Hitler. There’s police brutality, mentally ill people are getting killed. Why shouldn’t a person have the ability to defend themselves? Guns just don’t jump up and shoot people. Responsible people know how to store guns, shoot them, be safe with them. Lawbreakers will always get guns. It’s a complicated subject; it’s not black or white.

I want people to be aware of what’s not mainstream. People search out their own bias. If you’re a liberal, you’ll go to liberal sites, and same with conservatives. But six corporations own all the news, as well as Hollywood studios and the biggest newspapers and NPR. So for people who want to do harm or control the way people think – that’s how they do it.

How can you ever get access to non-biased information?

You cross-check it. You don’t believe it. One of my major problems is with public education; it’s like educating a school of fish. They all swim together. School doesn’t teach critical thinking or how to be self-sufficient, entrepreneurial, how to start a business. That’s what you should be taught!

You work in just about every different medium there is.

Yeah, that’s my M.O. I was asking people for dead technology, making art out of those things, obsolescence. Repurposing junk. But 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.

You also design homes and architecture. How is that process different?

With this, I don’t have a client, I just need to satisfy myself. It’s free, there’s no restrictions except my own brain.

How would you describe the Durango art community?

There are people 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 still try to make art. 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.

Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer


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