Madden Studio Blog

May 14, 2012, 3:29 pm
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Here are some recent photographs I have taken of sunflowers I brought home from Trader Joe’s.  And yes, for those familiar with her work, these were definitely inspired by Krishna Mitra’s paintings of flowers.

I only have a few to share today, but more may eventually be found at my picasa web site:


April 25, 2012, 9:15 pm
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Continuing with my floral theme of late, I wanted to share a few photographs based on some tulips that were recently blooming in our front yard.  I wanted these to be abstract enough so that the object was neither too apparent nor wholly obliterated.


 A recent “Spring Shower” provided an opportunity for me to add some new elements of visual interest.


I am hopeful that some of these will be able to be printed at a large scale.



I had fun trying to capture edges that would recede into a luscious blur.






I liked the flame-like quality that this last one has.


Happy to have shared.  I hope you enjoy!



A Day at the Orchid Show
April 17, 2012, 7:56 pm
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Having recently returned to New York, I had an opportunity to attend the “Orchid Show” which is held at the New York Botanical Garden annually.  This provided me a chance to work with a new 100mm macro lens that I recently bought.  Working hand-held, I don’t think that I produced any killer shots, but thankfully the subject matter has much to say for itself regardless of my handling of it.


Walking through the show, I was struck by the diversity of colors and forms.  Here an alien-like creature;

there a seductive gracefulness of form



beautiful yearning,

fed by light,

nourished by soil,

sometimes falling under the weight of desire-



Apart from the variety of orchids on display, there are also many other fascinating forms worthy of exploration.

Here is a visual interpretation of a cactus. Below is a striking example of natural symmetry.

The bulbs outside the Enid Haupt Conservatory were beginning to bloom and time was well spent in the lovely company of two dear friends.

The “Mad Men” Aesthetic: The Time Warner Building and De Young Museum
March 30, 2012, 2:59 pm
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About two years ago I was in NY and had a chance to go shooting in the vicinity of Central Park.  I can’t say it was a particularly good day for shooting and I was there in the mid-day light.  However as I looked at the Time Warner building it immediately reminded me of the intro to “Mad Men” where a figure is seen falling against the backdrop of a skyscraper.  I liked the jagged edges of the building and the variation of angles that the light helped emphasize.  I entitled this shot “Jazz”, partly due to the nature of the image but also because “Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola” which is part of Jazz at Lincoln Center resides somewhere near the top of the protruding edge.  Whenever people ask me where they should go in NYC, I always suggest Dizzy’s because it is an ultimate New York experience, great music, fun people-watching, and drop-dead views of Central Park and the buildings lining Fifth Avenue.


But back to the issue at hand.  During my latest outing in San Francisco, I had intended to shoot more “Tapestry” type photographs from the tower at the De Young, but for a number of reasons that particular location doesn’t work well for creating those kinds of photographs.  I did however find the building itself mesmerizing and the starkness of the light behind the building in this case worked for what I wanted to achieve.

De Young 1

In this shot, which is pretty much as shot, I wanted to counter-balance the negative spaces which appear at the bottom and top corners.  The strong diagonal helps create a sense of drama and energy.  Here is another shot:

De Young Museum

The variation in texture coupled with those of the different forms make for good abstract studies.  In some ways, the object as a whole is less evident than the parts comprising it.

De Young #2

Here I enjoy how both the boldness of form and the intricate detail of the walls are each evident.

Well, I am glad to have given a little overview of some neglected older work and of some of my newer work and how I think about it.


A Day in San Francisco
March 27, 2012, 8:41 pm
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"Victorians on Alamo Square"

As some may know, I recently moved away from the Bay area, as my family has returned to the New York Metro Region.  Amongst the adjustments I am making, the greatest is to the one-nap-a-day schedule.  Because a few people have recently inquired as to what I am doing with my work, I have decided to use my blog as a way to let people see some of the work in progress.  Of course, due to limited free time at the present, much of what I do is play around with photographs I have already taken, to see where I might take things.  I like the idea of putting together a book of the work I did while in California, but choosing how to organize it and edit it appears a bit overwhelming at the moment.  But we shall see.

So just for kicks I am offering a slight review of a day I spent shooting in San Francisco with Ken Mahar, fellow photographer and friend, who was gracious enough to take me on a San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off tour.   As you’ll see there are plenty of run of the mill “snapshots” but I also had a chance to photograph some remarkable architectural features both at the Palace of Fine Arts and at the De Young Museum and to add my own creative touches.

The Palace of Fine Arts is shown here:

Palace of Fine Arts

The details of the architecture provide ample opportunities for playing with line, shape and color.  Here is a view looking upward at one of the arches.

Detail of the Palace of Fine Arts

I took this one working on the diagonal, but still haven’t decided what to do with it.

Curves and Columns

My favorite “in camera” shot came from the De Young Museum whose perforated walls allow one to play with texture and form.

Wall t the De Young Museum

Using a photoshop technique to which I have a crazy addiction I came up with this interpretation of the same wall.

Wall at the De Young Reinterpreted

Unfortunately, “lil ‘El” is calling, so my work for today is done.  I guess I should have entitled this “A Few Glances at a Day in San Francisco”.  Well the good news is I have more to work on tomorrow.

The Tapestry Show @ Kohler Jones
September 8, 2011, 5:23 am
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Last evening, I finished hanging my work for my solo exhibition “Tapestry” at Kohler Jones (, which is at the corner of Day and Church Streets, near 29th St in SanFrancisco. My work was first introduced to Courtney Jones, one of the  principal owners, by Gail Ragains, an accomplished Bay area figurative painter, neighbor and friend (check out  Courtney has a vision for providing artists the opportunity to display their work in a more natural context, surrounded by the rich and subtle furnishings that define the personal spaces in which we live (or perhaps want to live).

Originally, Courtney was drawn by my San Francisco Tapestries, works that attempt to capture the beauty of the more low key, less celebrated parts of the city, works that focus primarily on the residential places where we live, do laundry, have sex, dine, and commute together.

The Tapestry idea is inspired in part by my 12 years of living in New York, combined with six years of teaching Plato’s Republic in the Bronx, which had given me an appreciation for the remarkable accomplishment that it is to live side by side and sometimes on top of one another, respecting if not always liking those around us.  “That none of us can do it on his or her own” is perhaps a sometimes overlooked insight.  I do not want to overdramatize my own experience, but being in NYC on 9/11 and riding the subway on a daily basis for many years subsequent to it, I often sat in wonder, enjoying that “we,” a people, could travel together, each to his or her unique destination, but each in relative peace, without (too much) ill-will, without malice, and sometimes even with care and concern for our fellow neighbors: cities are a beautiful and fragile human accomplishment.

So  don’t think I will ever tire of shooting my Tapestries because every location has its own unique history, its own topography, its own architecture and way of life.

Noe Valley Tapestry #1

I currently have three 24″ x 36″ “Tapestries” on display at Kohler Jones and will have a few others on display for the Artist’s reception on October 1st.  Another theme in my work, however, is to highlight certain aspects of specific locales, to focus on what makes them distinct or unique, and to have some fun doing so.  So, because this is a San Francisco show, and a Noe Valley show to be more specific, I have spent some time this summer exploring the local Victorian architecture and thinking of  ways to creatively reinterpret  it.  While the aesthetic sensibilities that informed Victorian architecture and interior design are in many ways in contrast to  a more modern, streamlined approach, I wanted to see to what extent I could synthesize the two aesthetics..and from this attempt was born “Victorian Mod”.   Rather than go on and on explaining myself, I would rather give examples of the work and let it speak for itself:

Victorian Mod: a sample

There is a lot of lintel showing in these pieces, for those who enjoy that kind of thing…and the colors are less than subdued

Another sample

But one could always display them against the backdrop of a perfectly beige “Stepford”-colored wall and relish in the ambiguity of an ubersexy-staid interior, one that says “Yeah…I’m a bit crazy, but it’s all totally under control”

Part 1 of a Victorian Mod Four-Square

Anyway, I invite you to come, take a look and enjoy the show.  Work will be on display from today through November 1st.  The reception is October 1st from 11-5pm at Kohler Jones, 1747 Church Street, San Francisco.

Getting Away Sonoma Style
August 19, 2011, 9:00 pm
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Having a 1 year-old makes getting away a little more difficult these days, but I was delighted when I was recently invited to visit Moon Mountain Retreat in lovely Sonoma CA, a fabulous vacation rental owned by Dan and Karen Duggan. The nearly 200 acre property is at the top of Moon Mountain Road and overlooks the vineyard-speckled valley below.

Main House with Valley Below

Even before getting to the property, we were enchanted by the drive up Moon Mountain Road, where the sense that one is really “getting away” increases with each gentle turn.

Section of Moon Mountain Road

A View on Moon Mountain Road

While the main house offers a more capacious as well as luxurious accomodations, Leah and I stayed at the charmingly low key “Vineyard View Cottage”, where our son’s 5am lung exercises would only be heard by the deer and birds.  The cottage had everything we needed and  its “shabby chic” interior was a perfect complement to its secluded hillside setting.

Porch of the Vineyard View Cottage

One of the benefits of waking at 5am is getting to see the morning fog blanketing the vineyards below…

Fog in the Valley

I was fortunate enough to get out and walk our first morning there and had a nearly mystical experience as the fog, filtering through the trees, was illuminated by the early morning light.  As if the sight was not enough, I could actually taste the dewy fragrance of the morning taking life.

Light and Fog

Of course, eventually the fog vanishes to reveal verdant hillsides below and the blue skies above. Although there are plenty of world-class vineyards and restaurants to explore nearby; most days, we would savor the joys of simple meals.  Having brought along some peaches, apples and grapes, we would snack on these while enjoying a variety of cheeses from the Marin French Cheese company (Costco, yes Costco, features a lovely four-pack sampler from this Petaluma CA based company).   In fact if you haven’t yet put camembert cheese into scrambled eggs, I highly recommend it.

While Leah and I did venture out to some of the nearby vineyards (B.R Cohn and Kunde) as well as take Eliot on a late afternoon outing to “The Girl and the Fig” in Sonoma (4.5 out of 5 sippy-cups) we never felt like we “had” to go anywhere.

Eliot captivated by the fan at "The Girl and the Fig"...see it really is the simple things

With a pool to enjoy, hiking trails on old mining roads, a hot-tub and a porch with spectacular views, there is no sense that you need to get anywhere else.  In fact, if you can’t manage to enjoy yourself in such surroundings, then enjoyment just may not be your thing.

Chairs overlooking the Valley

Besides the spectacular views, Moon Mountain Retreat has its own private Redwood Grove which is accessible via the hiking trails that follow an old road that once connected Sonoma to Napa Valley.

Redwood Grove

Looking up at the Redwoods Above

The Redwood Grove has a seasonal stream that runs through it and can provide a respite from the mid-day heat.  The trail to the grove features some stunning views of the valley, but it also has an old road roller machine that is a fascinating piece of history, a real industrial beauty.  I actually suggested to Dan that he consider making it into a more prominent sculptural object by placing it closer to the main residence but there is something romantic about just happening upon it out on a somewhat forgotten trail.  The bullet holes that riddle it remind one of the real “Wild West” although I am told that those were actually attributable to kids who in years past would use it for target practice.

An Old Road Making Machine Sits Aside the Trail

Road Roller

Road Roller Detail

Another view from the hiking trail

What stands out to me regarding our stay is the absolute tranquility and privacy of Moon Mountain Retreat and the deliciously rustic charm of the “Vineyard View Cottage.”  Even the approach to the cottage was surrounded by lavender plants that were alive with the gentle sound of diligent honey bees.

Honey Bee and Lavender

Anyway, although I don’t customarily write reviews of lodging on my blog, the fact is that Moon Mountain Retreat is too good not be shared…it is a place were one is reminded how fulfilling it can be to slow down and savor the simplest of things, to eat, to drink and to find joy in sharing with others the beauty that surrounds us.

Pear tree with lavender