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Madeleine Finley: Colorful Chaos

Posted in: Artist Spotlight
By K. McDermott
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Madeleine Finley: Colorful Chaos

Madeleine Finley - Oil Painting

Madeleine Finley is a painter from the Washington, DC area. She creates colorful abstract oil paintings, each containing a beautiful chaos of letters, lines and fragmented figures. Sometimes emerging artists will incorporate words into their work and the integration seems trite, but Madeleine’s use of lettering is abstract and intriguing. Along with her acute awareness of color and unusual compositions, her paintings are fun to explore.

Madeleine had her first solo show in Puerto Rico, as a part of the Trailer Park Proyects. Trailer Park Proyects is a traveling gallery in the trailer of a box truck. TPP gives both emerging and established artists the opportunity to show work in various locations across the city of San Juan. The project also sets a maximum price of $500 on all exhibiting works to make the artwork more accessible for younger and modest art collectors.

In the following interview, Madeleine illustrates the importance of exploring different opportunities and venues for practicing your craft as an artist.  One opportunity that Madeleine has particularly enjoyed in the DC area is being a member of DC Arts Studios. DCAS, an organization located in Takoma Park, Maryland, is a work space for DC area artists, creative agencies and arts organizations in the DC metro area. DCAS also provides professional workshops, exhibition opportunities and other opportunities for collaboration. She says that she feels lucky to have found a collaborative space like this to develop as a young artist.

Unfortunately, she says she will be leaving the space soon to attend grad school for her MFA, “It’s been great. I’m going to be sad to pack it up.” If you are looking for studio space in the DC area, their studios are definitely worth checking out.

Madeleine was recently accepted into a summer residency program with the Rome Art Program, a non-profit program that gives artists the opportunity to practice plein air painting and drawing on the streets of Rome, Italy. There are many artistic traveling opportunities like this for painters and other artists—some must be paid in full and some are more like grant opportunities. Some programs have stringent application processes and tuition is partially or fully covered, with only airfare the responsibility of the artists. You can support Madeleine’s trip and learn more about the Rome Art Program here

To see more of Madeleine’s work, please visit

You work primarily in oil. How did you get started in this medium and when or why did you start incorporating letters and words into your paintings?

I’ve been working in oil almost as long as I’ve been painting… I’ve always been interested in the chemicals of paint, the history of paint, and how oil paint can translate emotions and aggression. I started incorporating letters and words very organically—when making my paintings I may pull content from literature or writings, and I tend to enjoy the more gestural and  poetic lines. I gravitate towards the phrases that can start to build a story on their own.

I see on your website that you had an exhibition in Puerto Rico. How did that come about and how has that experience informed your work?

Yes, my first solo show of drawings. The show was titled “Con Cave.” I loved it. It was a small show of drawings shown by Trailer Park Proyects. Alexis Figueroa runs and created TPP and she offered me a show. They were all 18x24 drawings made in a sort of mixed media: mostly oil pastel, collage and maybe some paint here and there. 

Madeleine Finley - Oil Painting

You’re from the Washington DC area originally. What do you like about DC, and how do you think the art scene here is different from other places you’ve been?

It’s a lot smaller of a scene for sure, it’s bizarre really; it took me forever to find a studio here, and luckily I did. I found the DC Artist Studios in Takoma Park and it’s been great. I’m going to be sad to pack it up. I've also been enjoying the free lecture and Artist talks at the Smithsonian—Jerry Saltz and Amy Sillman both gave very memorable talks at the National Portrait Gallery.

Do you have a recent artistic accomplishment that you are particularly proud of, or a new project on the horizon that you are excited about?

I’m very proud of my recent show at Studio Gallery. The space was small and my paintings looked really good bouncing off of each other.

I heard that you were recently accepted to a special program? What will you be doing? Are you also preparing for an MFA?

Yes I will be going to Rome this summer, and attending The School of the Art institute of Chicago in the Fall, where I will begin my MFA. I’m ecstatic for both. I was accepted into The Rome Art Program this summer for their plein air painting program.

You earned your BFA the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Do you feel that undergraduate art school was a wholly valuable experience and opportunity for artistic growth, or do you feel that you have grown more with DC Studios?

They’re two entirely different experiences. I wholeheartedly believe that getting my BFA was the best decision I could’ve ever made, it initiated the maturing of my practice. I also believe that after school it’s important to work on your own for a bit. But I’ve definitely reached a sort of halt in my practice which is why I’m going back to school for my MFA. 

Madeleine Finley - Oil Painting 

May 12, 2016
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