For multidisciplinary Detroit-based, 19-year-old artist Maddie Duda, the word nostalgia isn’t merely a piece of terminology but a closely held philosophy. One which leads her to reminisce on past memories and use second-hand materials, along with an abundance of glitter, novelty toys and embellishments, to imagine bodies of work, from doll’s houses to wax desks and masquerade masks, that conjure maximalism-enthused contemporary art.
To start could you please introduce yourself to METAL and our readers?
My name is Maddie Duda, I’m 19 years old, and I’m a multimedia artist! I go to art school in Detroit where I’m studying Fibre & Textiles and I’m a painter as well so I make work in a lot of different mediums.
You were born and raised in the Metro Detroit area and are presently enrolled at the College for Creative Studies. How has growing up in this particular environment helped to shape your practice as a multimedia artist?
I grew up a fairly normal suburban kid in a very cookie-cutter neighbourhood. I think I was always a bit of the odd one out in school but I had a passion for art from a young age so I was the art kid. I have a lot of memories of making art when I was little, especially drawing at the kitchen table or mixing different colours of glitter together. When I was 11 we moved to what used to be my grandparent's house to a much less cookie-cutter place.
The house is on a lake so I’ve done a lot of swimming and collecting rocks from underwater throughout my life. The lake makes me feel inspired. I guess I was always just playing or making things and I could never decide on one thing that I liked the most in terms of art-making, so I just naturally became a multimedia artist. I’ve always loved objects and things and I think everything about what I loved as a kid or the environments I grew up in solidified my love for art. Now being in art school I’m much more exposed to the art community and everyone's different practices so I have even more desire to try new things and explore new media.
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What catalysed you to study Fibre and Textiles in particular?
I learnt how to embroider and crochet when I was around 7 or 8 and would make clothes for my dolls in middle school. So when it came time to pick a major, I think I really wanted to hone in on my love for sewing and clothes since I hadn’t had any formal training with it yet. I knew I liked sewing and had never realised textiles were something I could study.
Speaking of which, being in your sophomore year, how have the lessons you’ve learnt so far emboldened you to take more risks within your work in terms of experimenting with contemporary materials and imagining altogether new possibilities?
I’m exposed to a lot in school just through my curriculum and the resources I have access to in the studios. Having the opportunity to use new materials or try new techniques automatically pushes me to experiment. I’m also pushed to try new things all the time by my professors and classmates. With the new techniques I’ve learnt in classes my imagination can span a wider area of possibilities of things, I can make. Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about dying fabric which has been incredibly fun because it feels like cooking. I also took weaving for the first time this past semester which I’m excited to keep exploring. There’s so much to learn. I want to keep pushing outside of my comfort zone and my usual boundaries because that’s what being an artist is all about.
Talk me through your creative practice, where is your ingenuity found and in which ways do you look to translate these realisations into your work?
Everything I do is driven by nostalgia. I have so many childhood photos and just a lot of photos in general on my phone. I go through them a lot and do a lot of reminiscing and thinking about certain memories or eras of life. I also get almost all of my materials second hand which has a big impact on what my art looks like. I’ve been thinking a lot about material memory lately and how memory can be translated from what we see in our heads to something tangible. So I like using second-hand stuff because it holds so much memory in it and knowing I can give it a second life rather than it going to waste gives me a lot of motivation. Even if I’m not directly referencing a nostalgic memory, those themes shine through because of the materials and visuals I use. I’ve also been trying to write more before starting pieces so I can gather my thoughts about things and allow abstract ideas to translate better to a physical form.
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From what I understand your way of working is very organic. In that, your intuition largely stems from your childhood memories and vintage items which come together to lead you down more complex explorations of the contrast between light and dark – how was this style of creativity realised?
I was able to better understand and define these themes for my work once I started college. I used to struggle with what my style was since I work in multiple mediums and didn’t know how they all fit together. Since I am urged to find the why in my work a lot in school, I’ve been able to start thinking about what my inspirations are and what drives me to create. And as I mature as an artist, my art becomes more complex and I’m able to understand that why. It’s not even something I fully understand yet. But it is all very intuitive for sure. I don’t always do much planning before starting a piece but I’d like to. My ways of working are constantly evolving and becoming more complex with each piece I make.
Who are some of the people that influenced your work as a multimedia artist, and which ones within that space have you come to value and respect?
I really love the painter Florine Stettheimer. I found out about her from her piece called Love Flight of a Pink Candy Heart that’s on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I visit it every time I go there. Her work is so big yet so dainty. I love her colour choices and the level of detail she adds to her work because they look like mixed-media pieces even if they’re just painted. She actually did do some mixed media paintings that include fabric and lace to be clothing for the people in them. The few pieces of hers that I’ve seen in person have had a huge impact on me and I see myself in her work. Also, social media helps me find so many wonderful artists. It certainly has its ups and downs but I’m ultimately grateful to live in a time where it exists because of all the artists I’ve learnt about and become connected to. Being surrounded by art not only in school but online keeps me motivated and inspired.
You work with acrylic paints and embroider on second-hand materials but also use glitter, birthday candles and novelty toys. What materials are you most comfortable with, do you endeavour to go beyond your comfort zone with each successive piece?
I’m probably most comfortable with a needle and thread because they’re always consistent and I have the muscle memory for them. If I don’t keep up with painting it becomes really hard for me. Adding toys and candles into my work is something I’ve started doing more recently but something I think I’ll continue doing forever. I find so much inspiration in those objects because they make me nostalgic and it feels like I’m opening time capsules or portals into childhood. I definitely want to keep pushing further and further outside of my comfort zone with materials. I’ve been doing more sculpture-based pieces lately which is something I hope to explore more in the future. I’m only halfway through school and I’ve grown so much since I started. Pushing myself to try new things is how I stay inspired and excited about creating.
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I would love to hear more about your latest Wax Desk project, what motivated this piece and is there an overarching theme to this body of work?
I don’t really remember what motivated the desk if I’m completely honest! I think I was bored of it and wanted to make something large-scale that I could pour candle wax and glitter on. Since a lot of what I’ve been doing lately is based heavily off of material memory, I was thinking about what arrangement of objects could be placed on the desktop and how strange I could make it look considering that it’s just a desk. I wanted to make a really extravagant piece of furniture. I don’t really know where I’m going to put it because it’s completely non-functional now. But this piece definitely impacted some things I’m working on at the moment and helped me visualise and understand what the overarching theme is for my work moving forward. Nostalgia has always been the main factor for me, but finding ways to make memory tangible is my main focus right now.
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing my sophomore year right now, so after that, I’ll have plenty of time over the summer for personal work. I’m hoping to make some painted soft sculptures and paintings on canvas soon. I’d like to make more videos too. I’m going to keep focusing on memory and the bittersweetness that comes with it. I know there are definitely a lot of good and exciting things in store!
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