All posts by dmaddalena

Zoe Art Becky

Becky was Dave’s mom, Zoe’s gram, and Artist Zero in this generational art story. Before she passed last February, she was a ceramicist and jeweler. Among the things she taught us as artists was the freedom to use art as a personal expression, and the deep pleasure of natural materials, forms, and language.

One of my earliest art memories was coming home from kindergarten with a ceramic cup I’d made at school, courtesy of an art program for kids. I had pressed my name into the clay with a pencil, but the lady working with us scolded me, saying, she didn’t like it when artists put their names on their work. Nothing like a little art criticism to start the kiddos off on the right foot! When I told my mom, she was so angry that she immediately put out soft clay and we both set to work making things worthy to bear our names. Fast forward to today, and I share a blog with my daughter that bears both our names.

Zoe and I both have a bunch of Becky’s pieces in our personal collections. I think we each love the small pieces, perfect for holding in your hands, and perfect for hanging around your neck. Apropos, Zoe, who has already demonstrated her facility as a metalworker, and as a keen observer, has recreated one of my mom’s ceramic pieces in silver, and given me permission to brag on two of my favorite artists.

Two pieces: Stones on Pillow, porcelain with stain and glaze, Becky Maddalena; Stones on Pillow, silver (on chain), Zoe Maddalena


passing through

Collage: image from mid-20th century illustrated bible, sqid-like creature from early-20th century naturalist print; final image desaturated in GIMP

A response to Zoe’s Untitled tapestry. Her improvised piece has a 1980s vibe, both in terms of graphical and color qualities. It looks to me like a woven-art homage to an imagined video-game cartridge box, where the 8-bit sea creature ditches stage-right to escape the light of the submarine’s lamp.

My collage pulls 20th century images together to tell a similar tale, of an interloper in an idealized garden. The final image is desaturated to more closely match the pale colors of the tapestry.

Graded on a curve

Collage: images of blue water, painted waves, trees, microscopic stuff, fruit and salt, cathedral at sunset, Autumn leaves and branches, painted sand with snippet of poem, and a 5500 yr old Mourning Figure from Egypt

A response to A Study in Gradient

Zoe’s beautiful weaving left me with a very subtle mournful feeling; not sad, more on the thoughtful end of the spectrum. It has an earthy, grounded feel, and a progression from dark to light on a field of sand next to water (as I perceived it) that has an a ascending flavor of life, death, and rebirth.

My response is not so simple, elegant, or integrated, but I tried to capture a similar movement along a spectrum.

At First The Words

A response to Dreamster.

At First The Words is a video collage inspired by Fol Chen’s song The Holograms. Click on the gif to view the movie in full, with audio. This piece is about the way that time can erode our confidence in childhood stories. Images are from a popular 1930s animated movie. The young heroine and the bitter queen are imagined to be two versions of the same person, whether separated by age or perspective.


Full disclosure: this work preceded Zoe’s challenge to make art to music. I tried to piece together a sound-and-picture assemblage in direct response, but all the parts were too heavy and the whole thing crashed to the ground. (That piece may yet be resurrected in the able hands of a DJ friend of mine … stay tuned.)




Collage: remote mountain scene, shapes cut from earth imagery

A response to Range

Range has an impressive aboriginal quality to it–a thoughtful, meditative reflection on the provision of the mountains. And, those six suggestive paddles hanging down there. What are those? They are streams draining the mountains of water; oars for navigating the rivers; earlobes stretched with age and wisdom; trophies gained in competition. Six is the number of creation, completeness* … and those mountains are, in the perspective of those who live there, complete in their provision of supply, and adventure.

The six forms in my collage can be many things–traditional oars, amphorae, or abstract figures–but whatever they are, they capture and contain the gifts of the hills.

*Six is the number of completion in the biblical sense, but not the whole: after six comes seven, the number of rest — sabbath


Work Night

Dave and Zoe prep for a local show
Dave and Zoe prep for our first joint show

We are preparing to hang art at the mighty Red Rock coffee house in Mountain View California for a week-long show beginning on September 30. We get to share the space with some great musicians (Picture Atlantic and Tomo Nakayama, et al) and the walls with a couple other artists.

Manifest Destiny

Collage: Kinkade cottage, astronaut. 15 1/4 x 19 in. framed.
Collage: pretty home, astronaut. 15 1/4 x 19 in. framed.

A response to “Eye Of God“.

I have always been intrigued by the technological extension of America’s Manifest Destiny, that doctrine that says Europe’s expansion into and conquest of the North American continent was justifiable and even divinely sanctioned. Today, there is little land left to conquer, but we keep pushing onward: technology enables both the exploration of microscopic space by the dividing of matter into smaller and smaller pieces (patent lawyers ready to stake their claim), and the colonization of outer space by governments and—soon—mining companies.

Zoe’s explorer floats in front of her objective, only to discover that she also is being searched (is the astronaut blushing?). In the face-mask of my astronaut (who has discovered a strange world indeed) we see reflected the romantic ideals of exploration … a principle wielded by the painters who fueled the manifest destiny in the 19th Century with their over-dramatic depictions of The West, and by the scientists who today drench space photos in false color to make our new frontier more comprehensible, or maybe, more attractive.