Julie Madden





Bonn Lair Pub, 36th and "J" Streets, Sacramento, CA.  Shields above the front entrance.

Mural of London, 18th and "J" Streets, Sacramento, CA.  Streets Of London Restaurant.  You can see the mural from the parking lot in the back of the restaurant.

La Trattoria Bohemia36th & J Streets, Sacramento, CA http://www.latrattoriabohemia.com/

Commissioned Art


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The focal point of the Nelsons' great room is a painting that features the couple's wedding party. The Nelsons purchased the painting as a wedding gift to each other. That's their daughter, Madison, on the sofa looking at a book.

Courtesy of Mollie Nelson

My favorite room: Warmth and whimsy

By Mollie Nelson, Gold River
Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, September 24, 2005
Story appeared in Cal life section, Page CL6

Our home is relatively small but certainly doesn't lack for character. Whenever the thought of moving up enters our minds, we must consider what we'd leave behind - an established neighborhood, excellent schools, a landscaped rear yard with a new pool and, above all, the interior of our home, just the way we like it, full of warmth and whimsy.

Our favorite room is the great room. It greets our guests with its large picture windows looking upon an outdoor fountain. Its colors are an inviting combination of chocolate brown and apple green. The sofa, large and comfortable, boasts more pillows than probably are acceptable. The ottoman is home to an assortment of toys for our 3-year-old daughter, Madison.

The focal point of our room is a painting by Julie Madden, a high school friend and talented artist. It was our wedding gift to each other five years ago. In the painting is the likeness of each member of our wedding party. It is often the subject of conversation as guests enter our home and continues to bring us happiness as the years go on.

Our great room is where we read the morning paper and entertain friends and family. It is where we open our Christmas gifts and watch Notre Dame football games. It is where we cozy up to the fireplace and enjoy a movie. It is, simply put, the heart of our home.

A Vineyard in our Basement, Jeane and Gene Westin

Our home in McKinley Park is a Tudor cottage built in the 1930s and the object, for the last 13 years, of endless remodels and changes.  We call them restorations because we want to return the interior character of the house to its original look... and make it even better.

Last year we finally got down to the quarter basement, which had old uneven stone steps descending into dark spider webs, was partially open to drifting sand and so uninviting that we only went down to change the furnace filter.  And that not often enough.

We think all spaces have a purpose.  But what purpose could such a depressing space fill?  We agreed on a wine cellar, all the more amazing since neither of us drink.  But right is right, so we called our contractor (William Pitt Construction) and he did an amazing job of transforming this space into a bright, warm wine cellar with built in space for over 50 bottles, and all appliances bundled out of sight behind sliding doors.

We purchased just the right painting of wine bottles and hung it.  But after months of work something still wasn't right.  That empty wall opposite the huge wine rack just needed... a mural of California vineyards.

We hadn't a notion where to look for an artist, but serendipity stepped in (as it often does) and a friend had a cousin, Julie Madden, who had painted several commercial murals about town.  We went to see her and her work and were impressed by both her talent and pleasant manner.  Serendipity working even harder, we found she lived two blocks away.  Soon we had an artist transforming a seven-by-nine wall in our cellar.

The result of her talent and inspiration is what your see here, and we see with great pleasure every day.  Now we go down to our wine cellar all the time because it's full of fun and spirit.  And the space is absolute perfection.

Jeane Westin


Contemporary Arts Collective, Las Vegas, 2005


In the presence of Julie Madden, I feel as if we should be talking in a forest glade in our bare feet, digging our toes into black soil and old pine needles interspersed with long green grass.  A petite blonde woman with blue eyes that stare through the walls, she comes across as a quiet, yet intense artist moved to capture what she sees and pin it to the canvas before it can escape.

I am here at the UNLV Graduate Student studios to talk to Julie Madden about her exhibit at the CAC, on display with artwork from Chad Brown and Danielle Kelly.  Here, I have to pause a moment and confess that I am not a painter.  I know very little about brush strokes or the difference between oil and acrylic.  My artistic abilities lie in other directions, but I know what I like.

We start off with a discussion about her paintings and why three of the five are untitled.  "Titles don't matter too much..." she says, curling up on top of a stool, "It's more how you react to the painting."  The idea is for the viewer to make his or her own assumptions, because to name something is to define it.  That definition may make sense in the mind of the artist, but in the eyes of the viewer the work may take on a different meaning altogether.  This makes sense when I view "Perch", which is an oil-on-canvas piece showing a concrete wall and the fingers and toes of someone perching on top of it.  Nothing more is shown, which conveys to me the impression of someone lurking, waiting to pounce.  This was far from Julie's idea of what the painting should be, which drove home the point about titles.  "When things are ambiguous," she says, "it gives you more freedom to think what you think, and make up your own story."

Julie came into the MFA program at UNLV three years ago after twelve years of applying to different universities and hoping for admittance. During that time she held several jobs, one of which as an investigator for the Department of Justice in San Francisco.  She made a good living and had a nice home in the city, but like she tells me, "Art is what I do best."  Her heart was always in her artwork, and once she got the chance, she left her entire life in San Francisco to come here and in a sense, start over again.

Julie harbors an abiding interest in the tiny moments of life, the adjusted movements of moving from one posture to the next, that pinpoint moment at which our guards are dropped and something of inner reality comes through.  There's more to what's on the surface, she points out in reference to her painting of three people gawking, "Beyond The Wave", and indicates the blue foot lower down in the painting.  This painting was a purge for her, pushing out the emotional chaos built up from a period of her life onto the canvas and decorating it with layer upon layer of meaning.  

She also has an eye for the surreal and silly as well.  Julie tells me about the Bikram Yoga class she took, along with several dancers and lawyers.  One of the dancers was working up a sweat, and literally sweating her spray-on tan off onto her towel underneath.  It moved Julie so much that she had to capture it on canvas, the process of which I get a view as she gestures to the painting in question.  Another surreal moment was the discovery of a large cockroach in her coffee mug in the studio one morning.  Julie loves animals.  The cockroach happens to be the second native lifeform she's run across in Las Vegas, after the transients, and so she decided that she would do a painting based around this dead bug, now conveniently taped to a white piece of cardboard which I hold in my hand.  The result, "My Vegas Puppy", an oil-acrylic-housepaint-on-canvas piece, has evoked many visceral reactions from people in the gallery, and not all of them pleasant.  I am happy to say that I laughed when I saw it, as I thought it whimsical and rather silly, poking fun at the cockroaches and how we react to them.

We spend the next hour talking about her artistic techniques, how she's starting to get into sketching and line drawing as preliminary steps, as opposed to just painting on a blank canvas.  But what I bring away is a sense of her dedication and love for her art, and for the world around her.  Her eyes see those tiny moments that the rest of us gloss over, spot the reality through the cracks.  It is this truth that her paintings capture, and this truth that challenges us to make some sort of sense with it.