“The essence of art and being an artist is being vulnerable.” This is a lesson that took Madison Borden years to understand, a lesson she’s still learning and one that she willingly and lovingly shared with another artist across from her in a lively Barefoot’s Joe.
Madison, a junior art major and a dancer since she was four-years-old, was raised in a family of artists: writers, illustrators and painters, her older sister becoming an artistic role model at a young age. Madison vividly recalls memories of the late-night light seeping through the slit below the bedroom door across from hers, her sister diligently at work to create a masterpiece. “She’s like a jewel to me,” Madison said. “I have the highest respect for her. I want to be so many things that she is.”
Art naturally runs through Madison’s veins. It’s in her DNA, her being, and as a follower of Christ, it’s her worship. As a dancer, she became captivated by the use of movement to honor her Savior. “Everything I do, I just think: God gave me this ability. These are my limbs and my body, and it’s beautiful to move them in a certain way, expressing yourself without words,” Madison said.
Like dancing, her painting continues to reflect this act of adoration, communicating her emotions and devotion through the language of art. During a recent semester of difficult refinement, Madison used one her projects as an outlet in her trials. “I was doing warm and cold, and it wasn’t working. So, then I took a really dark, rich red and put it over all of the blue, except when I got to this little section of it, and all of a sudden it looked like a hole,” Madison said. “I was like, it’s already speaking so much of what’s happening to me. I just covered something up. I do that every time I’m out. But the hole is still like, if you want to get to me, you can.”
In her ceramics class, Madison was assigned to mold five teapots. Being a painter, ceramics wasn’t Madison’s favorite class. It was meticulous and brutal at times, but in the process of making these five teapots, something clicked. She decided she was going to make something for her, freeing herself from her longtime standards of perfection, incorporating her love of nature by hand-molding a golden-brown teapot, resembling tree bark. This became one of her most prized pieces, which she gave to her older sister, her first inspiration.
With the release of perfection came elements of both self-fulfillment and outside critique, critique that hadn’t always been present in high school, those less exploratory seasons of her artistic life. Madison had to learn to balance her personal fulfillment in her work and the longing to create “perfect” art, a battle that culminated in wondering she was meant to be an artist if her creative work will always be critiqued. “I think [painting is] the freedom I’ve been looking for, but in a structure that is under one umbrella: being creative, channeling my perfectionism, learning how to use that to my advantage but also learning how to put it to the side when it’s not needed,” Madison said.
This realization was humbling to Madison, who now uses her art to be vulnerable and form a deep connection with others. “I love the word ‘human.’ I love the way it looks, and I love the way it sounds. It’s very humbling,” Madison said. “God made us not to be alone.”
“At the end of the day,” Madison said, “we need God to tell us: ‘you are human.’”