Anna Shay Wasden
“The past two years have been a real baptism by fire.” After losing his mother in a boating accident in 2016 and his father to Alzheimer’s in 2017, Madison Faile found a way to deal with the tragedies that life dealt him. “Art is what got me through that process. Art is the only thing that got me through.”
The week of his mother’s death, Madison threw away all of his paintings. This cleansing might have been the end for other people, but for Madison it was just the beginning. “I went from painting in very vivid color to painting in black and white overnight.” The traumatic events which plagued Madison have turned him into the artist he is today.
The relationship between his work and the loss he suffered has had a subconscious effect on his art. “Dealing with the deaths of my parents have become almost the elephant in the room during my art shows.” His pain shines through his work, but Madison has found it hard to talk about the tragedies. The choice of subject matter- including his infamous clown works- are all reminders of childhood. Their distinct lack of color gives the dark imagery with which Madison associates this time.
“Painting is alchemy, there’s nothing natural about it.” Ever since Madison was a young boy growing up in Alabama, he knew he wanted to be painter. He credits his grandmother, a very talented portrait painter, with his initial introduction to the art world. Madison grew up, honing in on his talents through the aid of private art tutors in Montgomery. His father, a talented photographer, and mother, a dance instructor with over 200 students, both encouraged Madison’s love for art. His cultured upbringing allowed him the freedom to never question where he wants to go in life. Art has always been his path.
He attended high school in the capital city then elected to pursue a fine arts degree at Troy University. After learning from private tutors, Madison found it imperative to attend a university which offered one-on-one relationships with professors. He said, “When I got to college, I already had the ability to draw and paint, but school took that and cracked it open. I have been redefining my craft ever since.”
Since graduating from college, Madison’s art career has grown immensely. His show, Apparitions, debuted at the Armory and represented the memories and “ghosts” which have followed him in year’s past. Troy University recently invited Madison to show his collection, Prodigal Son, in the new International Art Center. “To be asked back is a major honor.” Prodigal Son is a collection of the past two years and gives his viewers a hint at where he is headed. Madison’s voice is slowly being defined as he continues to create pieces which can be automatically recognized as his own.
His shows have been met with a resounding amount of positive feedback. Any negative feedback is inevitably part of being an artist, but Madison handles it with grace. “If people hate your work, you’re doing something right,” he explains, “but most of the negative feedback surrounds the ‘scary’ nature of some of my paintings.” Seeing a room with 20 or more of his own pieces is certainly surreal. “Say you’re an author, and you walk into a room and everyone’s reading your new book or maybe you walk into a room and there’s nude photographs of you everywhere. It’s almost like cutting a vein open.” He sees flaws in his pieces but is proud of where his career is headed.
Madison assures us that it won’t always be a black and white world. “We’re slowly starting to see color come back into my work.” Although Madison does not want to spoil anything for his fans, he does promise to continue with his passion for Southern gothic imagery and naturalistic subjects. Sculpture work and still-life paintings have been a small part of his shows recently, but have quickly become something Madison hopes to continue working with.
“Being an artist is what defines me first- not being from Alabama, not being an orphan. Painting for me is a push and pull. For me, it’s not about acting, it’s about reacting. I don’t believe in a clean studio, I don’t believe that exits.” Madison’s passion for painting has been met with so ardent support over the years. Since his first show at the Kress building in 2011, Montgomery has been very receptive of his talent. Stonehenge Gallery permanently displays a majority of his work, but he also shows in Birmingham, Atlanta, Chicago and in Gallery Orange in New Orleans. His work is in private collections all over the country, including California and Texas.
He hopes to see other artists, especially in the River Region, grow over the next years. He advises them to listen to that voice in their head, promote themselves ceaselessly, but most importantly- find the joy in doing what they love. “When I paint for myself and people can see the joy, the pieces sell. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, what is the point?”
Madison’s story of overcoming loss is not over. He deals with the tragedy daily but knows his art will carry him in the years to come.
Madison showcases his pieces on Instagram (@madison.faile). Stonehenge Gallery holds a majority of his work, though he continues to show in art galleries all across the country. He can be reached through email at email@example.com and by phone at 334.782.3884. He and fellow artist, Alisa Koch, have an upcoming show at Stonehenge on May 10 at 5:30 p.m.