Madison Cawein, Empyrean

September 24 - November 13, 2021          


Madison Cawein, Empyrean

Madison Cawein is a spiritual realist. While many artists working in realism seek to faithfully reproduce how they see the world, Cawein's work elevates universal and spiritual truths found in reality. Cawein has used his photographic skills for years to create source material for his paintings. Empyrean, however, raises the artist’s photographs from source material to finished artwork, offering viewers the rare opportunity to see as the artist sees.

This exhibition demonstrates how Cawein transforms a moment from the material world into a photographic snapshot of time, freezing cosmic energy allowing the artist's vision to be transformed into an artistic experience by the viewer, or to be given a new variant life when painted onto canvas by the artist.

Empyrean is Cawein's 16th exhibition at B. Deemer Gallery/WheelHouse Art, and his first exhibition of photography at the gallery. This exhibition is being held in conjunction with the 2021 Louisville Photo Biennial.


"In all that Madison Cawein has painted, the central metaphor is transformation. Like alchemy, art is a process where one thing becomes another.

For the artist, transformation is a spiritual act that occurs in the making of art.

Cawein possesses the gift and the intelligence to transform a subject through the materiality of paint and to reveal its deeper emotional content. In the end, the art must stand apart from the artist. Transformation, however, can continue for all who are willing to engage art in the light of their own experience."

–Albertus Gorman, Arts Across Kentucky




“Do you know what a man of earth may be, Khayyam?
A lantern of imaginings, and inside,
A lamp.”


To be an artist is to stand beside the door to the Invisible World and be receptive to what comes through. In these images, both photographs and related paintings, I see the Invisible as the Empyrean embodied symbolically as a chandelier.
The photographs came through all at once. I gathered the ingredients—a chandelier I cleaned up and converted from electricity to candles, reflective surfaces, a black felt backdrop, colored lights—and then put everything in flux for a long exposure time. There was never any intention to illustrate an idea, or any clear plan or expectation about the result. In fact, these images could only be seen by the camera before capture. The images are a pure gift, and one of the most intoxicating experiences I have had as an artist over many decades.
Photography has always been part of my process as a painter. Before now, I used to feel clearly the difference between a photograph that is complete in itself and one meant for completion in a painting. One criterion for painting was always a minimum legibility. If the image was completely abstract with no recognizable subject matter, then it seemed to me that a viewer was more likely not to make any effort to engage the image, and treat the work as decorative and arbitrary, or simply incompetent. A photograph as an indexical sign, that is with a physical connection to its source, has inherent credibility even if it is abstract and illegible. On the other hand, photography has too often appeared to be all about the subject matter. The test for me is whether an image can be adequately described in words or must be seen to communicate.
Ansel Adams, who was a concert-level pianist as well as a photographer, famously said that the negative is like a musical score, and the print is like the performance of it. That relationship holds for photographs and paintings as well. The information in a photo can generate multiple performances as paintings. 
For me, at this point and in this exhibition, the relationship between photographs and paintings has become fluid and wide open again. These images are something new for me, and I am tremendously excited about them.
I want to thank Dan Rutledge at Unique Imaging Concepts, photographer Matt Gatton, and Naomi Stuecker, all of whom contributed to the realization of the photographs, and without whom they could never have come through to this world.
Madison Cawein
August, 2021





Madison Cawein, Agni
Madison Cawein, Agni. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 36 x 24 inches.


Madison Cawein, Ara Coeli
Madison Cawein, Ara Coeli. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 36 x 23 1/2 inches.


Madison Cawein, Archaic Torso
Madison Cawein, Archaic Torso. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 36 x 24 inches.


Madison Cawein, Coming Through
Madison Cawein, Coming Through. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 48 x 35 1/8 inches.


Madison Cawein, Dream Chandelier
Madison Cawein, Dream Chandelier. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 36 x 24 inches.


Madison Cawein, Emanation
Madison Cawein, EmanationDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.


Madison Cawein, Empyrean
Madison Cawein, Empyrean. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 48 x 35 1/2 inches.



Madison Cawein, Fiat Lux
Madison Cawein, Fiat LuxDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Flame Dancer
Madison Cawein, Flame DancerDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Gift
Madison Cawein, GiftDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Gloria
Madison Cawein, GloriaDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 26 1/4 inches.



Madison Cawein, Grande Splendore
Madison Cawein, Grande SplendoreDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Khidr
Madison Cawein, KhidrDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Luce
Madison Cawein, Luce. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 48 x 32 3/4 inches.



Madison Cawein, Paradiso
Madison Cawein, ParadisoDye sublimation on aluminum, 48 x 32 inches.



Madison Cawein, Radiant Orb
Madison Cawein, Radiant OrbDye sublimation on aluminum30 1/4 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Sixteen Candles
Madison Cawein, Sixteen CandlesDye sublimation on aluminum, 48 x 35 3/4 inches.



Madison Cawein, Spirit of Lightning
Madison Cawein, Spirit of LightningDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Synesthesia
Madison Cawein, SynesthesiaDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, The Laughing Chandelier
Madison Cawein, The Laughing ChandelierDye sublimation on aluminum36 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, The Music Room
Madison Cawein, The Music RoomDye sublimation on aluminum33 1/4 x 24 inches.



Madison Cawein, Turning World
Madison Cawein, Turning WorldDye sublimation on aluminum, 26 x 36 inches.



Madison Cawein, Through a Glass. Oil on linen, 36 x 24 inches.
$11,000 Framed



Madison Cawein, King of the Dancers. Oil on linen, 40 x 60 inches.
$25,000 Framed



Madison Cawein, Parable of the Lamp. Oil on linen, 40 x 60 inches.
$25,000 Framed




Louisville Photo Biennial