Artist Otherwise Known As: Madison Weist ’15

My first impression of Madison Weist ’15 was unmistakably that of a dancer. She is poised in her black leotard and tights, ready to help administer auditions for CoDa, (the College’s contemporary dance group) of which she is a member. But while many have seen her as a performer on stage, the studio art major is an avid sculptor as well. She creates thought-provoking mixed media pieces that challenge the traditional idea of sculpture and are far more modern and interpretive than the marble athletes and dignitaries of the bygone classical era.

Weist has had an interest in the arts for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a fashion designer, she was exposed to different expressions of art throughout life. “I was always the kid who liked to draw in class … I did art all throughout high school,” she said. She began her College career as an artist with “Drawing I” in the spring of her first year and was introduced to sculpture and architecture last semester as a sophomore.

When asked if there was any sort of umbrella term for which she could characterize her work as an artist, Weist’s unexpected answer was indicative of her passion to learn, discover and improve herself at every opportunity: “I don’t really think of myself as an artist; I think of myself as someone who can and does do art.” Two of Weist’s favorite pieces from her first semester as a sculptor have been exhibited in the Spencer Studio Art building as a part of her curriculum for the class. Striking against the building’s pristine white walls, they immediately confront the viewer with a mix of balance and asymmetry, highlighting well used objects presented in unfamiliar ways. The first of the two is a composition of a disassembled coffee grinder. “I was just playing with the balance of the forms and how you could repurpose something that was older into a different form,” she said. The second was an installation of used bottles both plastic and glass, that hung from the ceiling on an impressive scale.

As an active member of both CoDa and Ritmo Latino, dance is also a significant part of Weist’s life. “I don’t think I could live if I wasn’t dancing, but I also create artistic compositions all the time without even thinking about it,” she said. Rather than conflicting with each other, they exist as independent entities on separate but parallel tracks in her life that occasionally intersect. “I wish I did more,” she said of her attempts to intertwine her two greatest loves. “It’s strange that the dance department and the art department aren’t as connected as you’d think they are … but I would love to, maybe as a senior seminar piece, incorporate sculpture and dance.” Weist in fact got the chance to dance with CoDa at MASS MoCA amidst the museum’s beautiful exhibition of Sol Lewitt’s “The Well Tempered Grid” last November. She cites LeWitt as an artist she has looked up to thus far in her foray into contemporary art because of the way he instructs others to create his pieces rather than doing it himself. “I think what the most interesting part is in his art is that gap between what he writes on the paper and what the draftsmen interpret … he gets down to the foundations of making art,” Weist said.

While each of her pieces vary greatly, Weist elegantly described her artistic process as an attempt to achieve and understand the “fleeting or long lasting” connection between an artwork and its viewer. “I’m very interested in the connection between people and things [and] how that can be symbolized through art,” she said. She turned her work in a project for her sculpture class into a performance piece. She took one of her three roughly sculpted hearts straight from her installation and threw it back and forth across the room with a friend. By doing this the project transformed from a literal depiction of human anatomy to a symbol of the vulnerability and conflicting emotions that often come out of trusting another person with your heart in a relationship. “At some point, sometimes someone slips, and the heart smashes on the ground,” Weist said. “[And after smashing it the first time,] it didn’t break fully, so I had to pick it up and drop it again. I did this several times … It was really intrusive in an art gallery because you don’t expect people to touch the art – it’s really not allowed,” Weist said. “A lot of my friends were there [at the exhibit] who knew I was in the class, [but] I would love to see what would happen if I was in a place where no one knew that I was the artist.” She has also explored this connection as a tentative psychology and studio art double major.

While she is reluctant to limit or label herself in any way as far as a future career as either an artist or a dancer, Weist can see herself becoming an architect and has pursued her passions while here at the College and beyond. This summer, Weist worked with Swiss sculptor and metalworker Jürgen Meier, creator of the home furnishing company TK by Design. Through his guidance this summer, she learned to create artwork from scratch. Her favorite piece that she composed was of abstractly arranged metal triangles, all of which were placed and cut herself. She plans to take more art classes throughout her junior and senior years and is studying abroad during the spring semester in Rome. As she evolves and comes into her own as an artist, Weist continues to define sculpture and dance in her own beautiful, distinctive way.