The Art of Michael Madore

By Franklin, Deeanna | Clinical Psychiatry News, January 2004 | Go to article overview

The Art of Michael Madore

Franklin, Deeanna, Clinical Psychiatry News

Michael Madore has always had what he calls an obsession with diagrams and blueprints.

Born and raised in Hartford, Conn., and trained in painting at Yale University in New Haven, Mr. Madore overcame autism and several addictions, including heroin, to become a celebrated artist with works on display in New York City.

He contends that his work has almost an illustrative, or comic book, quality. Many of his paintings abound with images of nerves, muscles, and tendons, reflecting his interest in the brain, optics, and the central nervous system, as well as his early career as a medical editor and writer.

According to an October 2003 review of his work in Art in America magazine, Michael Madore's "works from the late 1970s and early '80s easily fit into the trends of figurative painting at that time, from Pattern and Decoration and Chicago Imagism to Neo-Expressionism and the art scene of the East Village."

"His recent work represents a mapping of his own neurocircuitry and the neural 'rerouting' that he now believes he was forced to accomplish as a result of AS [Asperger's Syndrome]," says Tom Patterson, who served as curator for the exhibit "High on Life: Transcending Addiction" at Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum. That exhibit included work by Mr. Madore.


I have an autistic disorder, and I tend to be very literal. So when my psychiatrist at Yale-New Haven Hospital suggested I apply to the Yale University School of Art, my response was "Okay." I thought he was talking about a day treatment program!

I have to admit, when I got accepted I didn't really think it was a big deal until saw how seriously the other students were taking the whole thing. I mainly saw it as an opportunity to do research in cartography, which is a subject I've been strongly interested in since I was a kid. Cartography and drawing were my way of coping. By 6, I had memorized all of the islands off the coast of British Columbia, and by the time I was 11 or 12, I was "designing" shopping centers, figuring out the best arrangement of all the retail components. Then when I was a teenager, and even now as an adult, I became obsessed with commercial leasing activity. I have to know office vacancy rates. And not merely in New York City where I live, but nationwide. To this day, I also remain obsessed with blueprints and any kind of technical drawing, since they neutralize the threat posed by full dimensionality. I got a full scholarship to go to Trinity College [in Hartford, Conn.], where I started off majoring in architecture, and ended up in art history, and then in English because I had some time to kill and thought psychoanalytical literary theory would magically explain social behavior. I had always been very anxious about hidden agendas and reading between the lines. I graduated with a dual degree in art history and English. I was going to go and get my master's in English, but I knew, without knowing the name of it, that I was incapable of this. I couldn't write more extended and logically consistent academic types of papers, so I had to abandon a university career. I didn't even know how to shake hands until after college.

Cartography and drawing are my way of coping with Asperger's Syndrome. As a kid, I was diagnosed with everything else but that. My AS is comorbid with Tourette's and ADHD. I use art to try to figure out how to communicate in ways that other people seem to take for granted. One of my recent drawings, "Eye Raffle," was done specifically to help me clarify the problem of the logistics of eye contact. This was very hard to do, because I've always felt eye contact is so arbitrary--when you look at some-one and how long you look at someone and how you return a gaze. It seems like a raffle.

The pieces that were on display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore were newer and reflected my obsession with opiates. …

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