Societal and cultural walls draw invisible boundaries between people. As of January 2019, the term “Border Wall,” has been the subject of debate and policy as the United States makes a pivot back towards isolationism. These boundaries dehumanize us. I am interested in making objects that divide and re-shape the space they occupy. These structures are ruins of what was once a boundary. Cut holes, perforations, and large gaps negate the wall and provide windows to the other side.
The history and cultural meaning of materials inspires me. Advertisements bombard us - urging consumption - making shopping a culture of its own. Pantyhose were once an unspoken requirement for women to wear. Now unnecessary, they are a choice women have and a relic of more rigid times past. Similar to makeup foundation, pantyhose are produced in a variation of skin tone shades from “nude” (light creamy beige color) to “suntan” to “coffee” to “jet black.” The names given to pantyhose illustrate how mainstream consumer language is skewed in favor of caucasian consumers’ needs. This creates a subtle mainstream language that establishes white as the primary expectation while othering people of color. It’s a language of passive destruction, a language that feeds into damaging internalizations.
The physical properties of materials can be used to destroy or transform their historical or cultural properties. In "Weaving Ourselves Out," which takes on a fence-like form, braided strips of aluminum are sewn together to weave a crumbling tapestry. Braiding and weaving are repetitive processes that are used in all cultures, from hair, to rope, to blankets for warmth. A gradient of cut, ripped, and manipulated pantyhose blocks certain openings in the braided aluminum. The fragility of materials renders the chainlink-like fence useless as a barrier.
"The Burghers of Baltimore" draws inspiration from high rises and skin. It takes its name from Auguste Rodin's “Burghers of Calais” and its form from women's bodies. A burgher is defined in many ways, most prominently as a member of the middle class - a prosperous solid citizen. A burgher can also be a member of the wealthy bourgeoisie. Language like “contribution” or “useful” is used in society to denote someone’s value. To “contribute” usually means to have a job, a bank account, to pay taxes, own property, own a car. Those who don’t contribute in these ways are discounted, to the detriment of us all.
For years, my work was made to have a short life span - objects that will fall apart at the same rate that a human body ages. As I grow, the reality of impermanence sinks in. I took an opportunity to change my approach to my practice in a collaborative project with the artists at Make Studio in Baltimore City. Instead of the studio existing as a place to think about broken walls and failing institutions, I wanted to transform disappointment and anger into joy and happiness. “Promise Land” was a chance to learn from others. It was an opportunity to interact directly with sunlight - to suspend a “barrier” that ceased to be a barrier. The result was a portal for light and color - a place for people to see a world in green, blue, red, yellow, to see a world bathed in rose.
Madeline Becker is an artist and independent filmmaker. A fellow in the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Madeline received funding to complete her feature directorial debut, Middleman, set to premiere in 2020. In 2017, Madeline started Mad Queen Productions, L.L.C., a video production company. In addition to film production in Baltimore, New York, and elsewhere, Mad Queen Productions partners with production companies and non-production companies alike to grow a strong and sustainable business community and film industry in Baltimore City. Madeline maintains a fine art studio practice, trying to keep a balance between business and art.
Madeline’s sculptures have shown at Area 405, MAKE Studio and at the country’s largest outdoor arts festival, Artscape. Madeline learned the ropes of the film industry by working in production in New York City and Baltimore City. Productions range from features, such Benh Zeitlin’s upcoming film Wendy (2019), to Matthew Porterfield’s Soller’s Point (2017), to commercials, PSAs, and music videos for artists such as Arcade Fire, Maggie Rogers, and Beach House. Madeline’s credits also include working as an assistant editor for Amy Scott of Marketplace Media on her documentary Oyler: One School, One Year (2015). Madeline has collaborated on videos for nonprofits such as Associated Black Charities, YWCA Baltimore, and Roberta’s House Family Grief Center.