Madeline Donahue: Intimacy in the Everyday

May 8th - May 31st, 2024

“Many modern masters painted their families. Why can’t I do the same? Intimacy is at the core of my work. Somehow my experiences as a mother have opened up a universe of ideas for creating work about intimacy.”

– Madeline Donahue for Mother Magazine

  • Madeline Donahue, Studio, Portrait, Painting, Drawing, Ceramics, Art, Family, Motherhood
    Madeline with her son Clement. Photography by Jake Holler
  • Installation view of Madeline Donahue: Present Tense (2024), the artist's second solo exhibition at the gallery

Madeline Donahue’s work captures the intricate dance of human connections, turning everyday family interactions into a canvas of profound artistic expression. Her style – witty, deliberate, and spontaneous – offers a fresh perspective on the everyday experiences of being a woman, an artist, and a mother.

  • Madeline Donahue, Tightrope, 2024, Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in.

Originally from Houston (TX), Madeline came from a creative household that laid the foundation for her artistic aspirations. She received formal training at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts while working full time to support herself, exposing her to the challenges and rigors of a competitive art world, teaching her resilience and adaptability. After university, she moved to New York where she navigated various roles, from styling books for personal libraries, including building one for Denzel Washington, to assisting contemporary art icons like Jeff Koons.

  • Madeline, her daughter Twyla, and their dog Llewella, while Madeline works on "Scissors" (2022).
  • A glimpse into the artist's studio, May 2023

Her pivot to focusing on her art practice coincided with the birth of her daughter, a turning point that also brought a newfound urgency to her practice. Motherhood did not just influence her thematic focus but honed her process, making every minute in the studio count. This transformation is evident in how she approaches her work: beginning with sketches, each piece evolves, often into paintings or ceramics, as she refines her initial impulses into poignant artistic statements.

  • Madeline Donahue, Reflection, 2024, Oil on canvas, 52 x 60 in.

“I am limited by the time at hand each day, so I work quickly. The drawings are done in one sitting. I want to have fun while I make my work, so I don’t obsess over details or linger too long on anything. I work so the idea translates into an image—so it might make sense to someone other than me.”

  • Madeline Donahue, Sorcerers Apprentice, 2024, Color pencil on paper, 17 x 14 in.
  • Madeline Donahue in her studio in Brooklyn, New York. Photography by Jake Holler

The themes of intimacy and family are recurrent in Donahue’s oeuvre. Influenced by artists like Alice Neel and Faith Ringgold, she delves deep into personal territory, presenting works that resonate with anyone who has navigated the complexities of close relationships. Her art does not shy away from the messiness of human emotions but instead celebrates it, crafting scenes that feel both deeply personal and universally relatable.

  • Madeline Donahue, Bye Bye Baby, 2023, Color pencil on paper, 17 x 14 in.

“What Donahue manages to paint are the minute yet momentous milliseconds that make up the experience of motherhood. They are snapshots of the mundane and the grotesque, the horrible and the wonderful, all imbued with a clear sense of time, both the lack of it and how quickly it seems to go by. ‘I have this urgency about being a parent, that it’s something that I’ve chosen to do, and I love being a parent, I love my children,’ Madeline says. ‘But there’s a melancholy to it because it’s a very short period of time that we’re parents. And I’m very aware of the shortness of it.'”

Amil Niazi in conversation with Madeline Donahue for The Cut

  • Madeline Donahue, I’ve Got What You Need, 2023, Oil on canvas, 62 x 50 in.