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Image Courtesy of Madison Rosenbaum
(Image Courtesy of Madison Rosenbaum)

Artist of the Week: Madison Rosenbaum

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Madison Rosenbaum: I picked up a camera for the first time about ten years ago. I took a photography class in high school and realized that putting three of me in an image was probably the funniest thing I have ever done. Post high school, I dropped my hobby of photography in favor of eating sushi with the guy I was seeing. I was really lost when I was 18 until I was about 21. My life had changed drastically for so many reasons. Late into my college adventure, I decided to take a digital technology and culture course focused on photography. After that moment... poof. I have been unable to put a camera down. Within the last six years, I have evolved my hobby to a fixture in my life that encompasses most of what I do. However, if you want to get to the root of when the seed was planted, I have been creating my entire life. It just wasn't always with a camera. I've always been a storyteller from my random drawings to talent shows at my mom's daycare to looking for ways to better create platforms for people to share their stories. I just finally realized one day I could do that with a camera, and it be more meaningful.

Do you work with other mediums?
By day, I am a graphic designer. By halfway through the day, I am a photographer, food reviewer, and late-night tweeter. I also once made a book with Davin Diaz and DrewBoy Creative. I guess technically I can say an I am an author. I am a horrible drawer for the record (like if this goes public, I want people to know that haha.) Like the best I can do is a really random crab drawing. People think it is cute. They are not wrong, but it is definitely not anything worth showcasing in an art show. I stick with my trusty camera and various Photoshop skills for the most part.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
My process can feel like a routine at times, so I often try to break free from the process if I can to spur new creations. However, for the most part, photo ideas often come to me really early in the morning. Since I am an early bird and always looking for worms (metaphorically speaking), brainstorming early is my best bet. Generally, this happens when I am at the gym or getting ready for work. I often pull inspiration from how I am feeling, recent experiences, or sociopolitical issues. Once an idea has been formed, I normally vet it with a friend or a mentor. Joel Nunn-Sparks has been a great outlet for me. He is a PHENOMENAL photographer and often gives me the courage to execute. After some chatting, I formalize a general idea and present it to a potential model to get their take on it. For each idea, I try to find a model that would want to be part of it because they have an emotional relationship with the concept. It makes the experience for both of us that more meaningful. Finally, we approach the creation period. It often is quite fluid since I leave plenty of room for altering the idea, creative problem solving (often I think I have my ideas totally planned out and then they aren't), and time dedicated to creating it. All of this is subjective to change depending on the idea in execution.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from?
Ooof. Inspiration. I have a few sources. Often I am inspired by my own feelings and experiences and of those around me. Sometimes I will be mid-conversation with a friend and BOOM. An idea will appear. But I also am inspired by other artists, both local and international. In terms of self-portraits, Cindy Sherman has been one of my biggest inspirations for self-portrait work. She is a queen! Locally, I have a few artists I look up to, including Joel Nunn-Sparks, Saul Martinez, Heather Willoughby, Sena Clara Creston, and Susana Vidrio Butterworth, to name a few.

Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
Portraits allllll the way. I am a sucker for a conceptual/surreal composition. And for as much as I hate being photographed, I am often at the center of my own work— the irony. When I construct my self portraits, it is one of the few times I feel like I am truly expressing an idea or concept. Give me the people!

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I have a few pieces in my home that are next to my computer space. I live in a 350(ish) square foot loft in downtown Kennewick. It is small, but the space I have made for myself is my tiny sanctuary. It is surrounded by pieces of art either given to me, or I have bought. Above my computer is a sparkly golden animal skull I bought from DrewBoy Creative's Yellow Show a few years ago. To my right, I have a piece that says "F*ck It* in script from Heather Willoughby. I try to use it as a reminder to not take myself too seriously. Waiting to be hung is a photograph on canvas from Jaime Torres that has a young girl on a man's shoulders at a protest that reads "no human is illegal" and a new piece from Joel Nunn-Sparks that reads "Once we accept our limitations we go beyond them." I have a few other pieces in my "to be hung" area, but those are the ones that mean the most of me. It is a humbling feeling to receive art from people you admire so much.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
That is a deep, dark question that probably most people don't want to hear. When it comes to my self-portrait work, most are created out of my personal darkness: my mental health. In 2013, I was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder. Those two illnesses have become centerfold in many of my self-portraits through the usage of masks (a cat mask and a smiley face emoji mask.) I have experienced emotional and physical abuse from individuals close to me. In my interpersonal relationships, immigration reform is also top of mind. As a partner in a mixed-race relationship with someone who was undocumented, my world view has drastically changed because of their experience and our almost 10-year life journey together. I have become an activist and an advocate for immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and those with mental illness. I rarely make art that probably is worth hanging in a home or something I expect people to buy because most of my art has been rooted in personal pain. I want to show the darkness and realness of the world around me. I am a storyteller first and foremost, and my duty as a photographer is to tell other's stories.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
My Instagram is my most reliable platform for art: @captainmadisonx. Here is my gallery page (it mainly contains my paid work). And this link is a mismatch of the two.

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
I have a few projects cooking. I am working on my third wave of photos for my photo series entitled 'foundations' featuring stories of immigrants and their children, refugees, and asylum seekers. I also am launching a new photo series entitled "Tales From Home," featuring stories of people in various stages of quarantine. I have two pieces in DrewBoy Creative's Blue Show and two pieces in an art show on display at WSU Tri-Cities entitled "Sensitive Materials." (Due to COVID-19, these shows have been delayed, but the art is hung.) I have been chatting with one of my mentors, Joel Nunn-Sparks, about forming a mentor/mentee group for photographers to build a better sense of community in our field here in the Tri-Cities. Due to the pandemic, it is on hold, but I know it something we are both itching to create and provide for both up-and-coming photographers and seasoned ones as well. Most importantly, I am working on helping others launch some of their projects. I finally feel like I have enough knowledge to help others in their photographic ventures or any art adventures. I recently joined a board, and I am looking forward to serving my community in a new capacity. Yay art!

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Medium iced Americano with cream and a little bit of vanilla around 2 pm, please.