Ashland gets tangled up in blue

It's a long way from Flint, Michigan to Ashland, Oregon. Artist and teacher Madalin blue has crossed it in style.

Blue isn't particularly comfortable defining a theme in her years of Zen painting, but does return to the solace in the idea of the storyteller. Within that, she weaves some rather enchanting stories of her own life as well.

Blue, a long time Rogue Valley resident, originally came to know the Northwest while visiting college friends in California. "I like the openness people had here that they didn't in a tough little factory town like Flint," said blue, whose twilight sunglasses match her moniker. "The connection to the natural world; the forests, the deserts, the oceans are all very inspirational to me. Of course, there's a different kind of inspiration coming from an industrial town."

As a child, blue cites her grand escapism as stemming from escaping her classes and wandering through the DeWaters art museum, where she would spend hours. "To me, it was like being hooked to the 'Big Mystery'," said blue. "It was my place, where I could go and hide; my sanctuary. I think I spent more time in there than actually in school." Ironically, one day her refuge and sanctuary would actually become her school when blue ultimately received scholarships to study at DeWaters, and was destined to one day become a teacher herself.

But blue actually traces her love for art back even further than that. "I recall starting with painting at three or four years old," said blue. "I snuck into my mom's room and got her lipstick and smeared them all over the mirror. I remember them very vividly the sensual quality." Luckily, blue's mother found the incidences charming and rewarded her daughter with her first set, with many to follow.

Blue, herself a mother, followed suit down the road, now having a 30-year-old son who sculpts. "He's better than me now," gushed blue, who minored in ceramic sculpture at Southern Oregon University, majoring in art, and getting a Master's degree in it at University at Oregon, having since taught at both.

"I think many 'successful' artists are very extroverted," said blue, herself quite soft-spoken, almost bashful behind her half eaten apple and piecing eyes. "The teaching dynamic, however, comes down to communication. Art has a life of its own. I don't think painters hundreds of years ago could picture a kid today looking at that piece in a museum. Teaching is like that, the communication transcends."

Blue sees her own work as a "human creative endeavor in the face of human geologic time." She traces evolution in her work back to taking community college classes in Pima, Ariz., and learning about Buddhism. "Everyone there seemed like a Buddhist," said blue. "I learned of the interdependence of things, and how everything is held in a larger place. My paintings went from being about time to being about timelessness. They became much cleaner."

"Interspace is very important," said blue. "The feeling of a moment, flashing, then gone." A similar approach is applied by blue through teaching her students. Now on a six month sabbatical from rogue Community College, blue has a little time to reflect upon her students and her process as an educator. "At first there was a little push and pull," said blue. "I spent years painting alone. My son was twelve very I got my undergraduate degree, I was in my forties for the Master's. To put art into words for the first time is very challenging and became very analytical. It helped activate the storyteller in me."

"One frustrating thing about teaching is that I feel a visual commitment. Unfortunately some students are inclined to take art classes because they think they can get an easy grade."

As sabbatical finds blue herself essentially a student again, she prepares a new opus. As she speaks of it, blue occasionally breaks off and whistles a bit. She's working on a series of short stories dedicated to the teachers in her life, whether in the classroom or upon the roads of life, coupled with complimentary paintings inspired by the experiences. ""These are mystical stories from my life time," said blue. "People I've met or observed have inspired them"&

166; they are both non-literal and literal as well as other-worldly. They stories themselves may come across as improbable, but they are rooted."

Originally blue conceived of the project as a gift for her son. "He's probably not going to get much of an inheritance unless I win the lottery," said blue. "I figured I outta give him something!"

Get tangled up in Madalin blue's progress at

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