Sharon Madanes in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Sharon Madanes

Selfie in studio

Sharon Madanes grew up in Chicago in a family of physicians and was exposed to both art and medicine from a young age – her first job was helping to package sterilized surgical equipment. She also spent weekends at the Art Institute of Chicago taking art classes and wandering through the collection. She has always found the strange forms and aesthetics of medical settings fascinating: “as a painter and physician, I’m currently making work about this very juxtaposition, exploring different elements of hospital and medical culture through paint,” she says. Sharon Madanes is participating in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center.

AS: How do you see your work in context of Domestic Brutes feminist perspective?

SBM: I often think about how gender roles and sexist cultural norms manifest in medical culture, and about the complications of having to balance a personal and professional identity as a woman. I think this idea is at the core of the exhibition.

Over and Under, 2019, 55” x 65”

AS: Tell me about the work in this show – its genesis and process.

SBM: The paintings in this exhibition are based on my experiences in the hospital, both as a healthcare worker, and as a patient. The smaller paintings in the show are part of a series of hand-washing paintings that I began in 2014. When I first started making paintings about hand hygiene, I thought the gesture was conceptually interesting as a ritual that bookmarked time -separating self from other – and in how it connected medical and domestic spheres. Of course now, in the context of COVID, these paintings have taken on new valence and meaning during the pandemic.

Deluge, oil on panel, 12 x 12 “, 2020

AS: How does the work in this show relate to your other work?

SBM: Most of my paintings take the culture of medicine as their starting point, and the works in this exhibition are no exception. That said, these paintings feel more personal as they were made while in quarantine during emotionally challenging times, when I was trying to figure out how to balance childcare and domestic responsibilities with professional ones.

AS: How do you hope viewers connect with your work in this show?

SBM: I want viewers to draw on their own experiences at home and in healthcare settings to connect with the imagery. I hope people also get a sense of the hope, humor, and beauty that I see in the mundane and often dark subject matter.

Unmasked, oil on panel, 12 x 12”, 2020

Domestic Brutes at the Pelham Art Center through Nov 7th.

Artists: Tirtzah Bassel, Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Ashley Norwood Cooper, Maria de Los Angeles, Nancy Elsamanoudi, Fay Ku, Sharon Madanes, Lacey McKinney, Joiri Minaya, Rose Nestler, Simonette Quamina, Diana Schmertz, Alisa Sikelianos-Carter, Manju Shandler, Melissa Stern; Curated by Christina Massey and Etty Yaniv

Thanks to Audrey Putman for helping with the interview.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: