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Conversations with Madie Gotshall

Today we’d like to introduce you to Madie Gotshall.

Hi Madie, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I have always loved creating since I was a little girl. Growing up in the Pennsylvania woods meant that this looked more like making concoctions with mud and natural materials, climbing trees to see further, making bracelets on the playground, and lots and lots of drawing.

My passion for creativity followed me throughout all of my education including college. I graduated from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in Art Education and a bachelor’s in Textiles and Material Studies in May of 2021. I am one of the lucky people who were gifted with amazing teachers and mentors.

Dana Attivo from Lower Dauphin High School is the first person who showed me that my love for art can extend further than a class in school. Her kindness and devotion inspired me to follow in her footsteps by attending Kutztown University.

There, I met another incredible artist and professor, Liz Quay, who taught me to follow my vision and ultimately gave me the freedom I needed to find conceptual value in my own work. Promptly after graduating, I packed up all of my belongings and made my way south to St. Petersburg, Florida to pursue my dream of becoming a professional artist.

Starting out in St. Petersburg was not an easy task. I had never been to Florida before other than a quick trip to Disney when I was a child which I hardly remember, so the area was completely new to me. Telling my family and loved ones that I was moving a thousand miles away to a place I had never been to be an artist was not an easy task. Being an artist is a path that is forever changing and is different for each person who tries it.

During my first couple of months in St. Pete, I spent as much time as possible creating work and trying to find my flow in this new place. After a ton of experimentation and “happy accidents”, I found that surrealism fit well into what I valued conceptually, which jump-started my current series of work. These paintings landed me at Five Deuces Galleria for my first in-person exhibition.

Due to graduating during COVID, my previous exhibitions had taken place online, so being with my paintings in space was a new experience for me. This show allowed me to begin networking in the area which lead to one of my paintings being displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

To continue networking, I began building my social media presence using primarily Instagram. I was lucky enough to enter and win a give-a-way through The Factory which granted me access to a place to work among other artists. It was there that finally felt like I was home.

I am now about to celebrate my one-year anniversary of moving to St. Petersburg, grateful to have found the place where I feel comfortable. I am currently in the progress of upgrading to a larger studio space at The Factory to be able to share more of what I do with the community.

I can be found with my art at their countless events, especially on Second Saturday Art Walks!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge is my self-doubt. Many artists, including myself, are constantly battling imposter syndrome which makes it difficult to recognize one’s achievements without writing them off as luck or a one-off thing.

People tell me that I am capable of building a career as an artist but I am always left wondering if it is from kindness and support or true belief that they are saying these things. When I finish a painting or whatever artwork I am creating, I can never seem to break the mentality that what I am making is not as good as I perceive it to be.

The second challenge is finding boundaries between my personal life in my paintings and how much I am willing to share with strangers. All of my work holds incredibly heavy emotions that I often do not like to talk about. The paintings are a diary in a language that only I know clearly. People generally pull generic concepts that are in line with my thought processes, but it is when they ask for details that I struggle with what to say.

Lastly, money. As we all know, it is a strange and expensive time in the world. I used all of my savings to relocate to this area and the life in a place like this where an art career is possible comes at a great cost. Many people often find original works of art to be expensive. They are often pricey if only looking no further than the number on the tag.

Being an early artist means that I have many more jobs than just creating the actual art. I also spend hours finding the best deals on materials, building canvases and frames, photographing my work, filming the process, creating and monitoring social media content, maintaining and building my websites, applying to new shows, networking at events, framing, hanging shows, curating, and so much more.

This is all on top of working numerous survival jobs to pay my bills. The price tags on artwork are representing much more than just the hours spent painting. It also accounts for the years of practice and education along with everything else that made the creation of the artwork possible.

Supplies and space to work are not cheap, especially when it takes a long time to gain enough recognition and demand to be selling enough original works to support life.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am primarily an oil painter but I work in many mediums including drawing, soft sculpture, and weaving, and I also have eight years of experience as a henna artist. My paintings can mostly be considered surreal. The collage different elements together to tell a narrative from my experiences.

I use my own reference photos as much as possible which often leads to me doing some strange things to get the right photograph for what I have imagined. I get a lot of inspiration from the 90s and early 2000s films and music from all genres. A lot of my work hits on liminal places and situations as I follow my path through the world.

This path has not been smooth, but I have used art as a method of healing and to grow through negativity. I am most proud of surrounding myself with the right people who have supported me and made me more resilient.

It is the method behind the madness that sets me apart. I am often in my own little world seeing things in a different way from others. In this world, I am able to visualize my emotions in a way in which I feel comfortable sharing. There is a lot that I am afraid to say, so I paint it.

People often connect my paintings to experiences with psychedelics which I find strange considering that the paintings are derived from my sober thoughts. In a male-dominated art world, I hope that my paintings can be recognized as intellectual and profound.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
St. Petersburg is unlike any place that I have been to.

I spent my entire life in central Pennsylvania which feels like a completely different world. I had previously thought that I had met many different kinds of people, but it was not until moving here that I recognized how much of life I was missing.

I am constantly amazed not only by the natural beauty but also by the people who embrace the arts as a treasure. I am exposed to art daily through countless murals, and artwork displayed in a variety of businesses, markets, and events. My dreams feel possible here.

Being surrounded by people who have taken on great responsibilities can be incredibly motivational, but it also puts a lot of pressure on individuals. I often struggle to remember that I can not expect the same results for myself as someone who has had more years of experience than me.

I see artists doing groundbreaking things like it is nothing and I hold myself to their standards. Awareness of this has helped me appreciate what I have been able to accomplish while pushing myself further.

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