Interview: Madeline Marak Discusses Her Forest Park Residency

The third artist to participate in the first-ever Forest Park Forever Artist in Residence Program was Madeline Marak, a recent graduate from the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Over the course of the month of September, Madeline's installation took over a section of Forest Park's northeast corner. Her project, titled Framing the Land, took a hands-on approach to spotlighting an often overlooked section of the Park. Madeline's installation consisted of simple metal frames covered in reflective tape that Park visitors were invited to pick up and place somewhere in the landscape. This simple act served as a way of allowing visitors to experience and see this area more clearly by forcing them to really look at the space around them. 

We were excited to follow up with Madeline now that her residency has come to a close and she has reflected on her time in Forest Park.

What was the inspiration for your Forest Park Forever residency proposal?
My inspiration for this project was the same as for all of my artwork. I walk the green spaces between buildings, parking lots or sidewalks taking photographs to gain a connection to the land, whatever form it may take. The unnoticed, unconsidered and undeveloped land in urban environments are small reminders that nature is all around us. I was attracted to the area of the Park that I chose for that reason — it seemed unconsidered and underutilized. 

Had you spent much time in the area of the Park you chose to focus on prior to your residency?
I had walked my dog a few times in the area and knew right away that I liked it. It had the same qualities as the smaller green spaces I had been photographing and painting, though it was a much larger space. When I first discovered the northeast corner, I interpreted its function as a buffer between the urbanized city and naturalistic park.

Did you have any particularly meaningful or interesting interactions with the public while you were working on-site?
Many people stopped to read about the project or talk with me. Many people expressed their appreciation for seeing the Park occupied by an artist. Two different people stopped by to place a frame in the ground while on break from visiting family at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. One person was just visiting for the week and happened to be in the Park when I was there.

Did you learn anything new during your time in Forest Park?
I realized that many people were already aware of the beauty of the northeast corner of Forest Park. My sculpture didn’t necessarily introduce people to the beauty of the Park, but it did give people a reason to stop and engage with that area more than they otherwise would have. Underdeveloped areas of a large park such as Forest Park serve a purpose as a place that can showcase the natural, un-manipulated beauty of a region. 

Any closing thoughts about this project?
I am very thankful for this opportunity to use Forest Park as my studio and for the interactions I had with the public. It is encouraging that Forest Park Forever acknowledges that the arts are a great way to facilitate engagement between the Park and the outside community.

We would like to extend our deepest thanks to everyone who interacted with Madeline's work while it was on view in Forest Park, and to everyone who joined us for the closing event. On September 24, Madeline invited the public to experience the installation in its final state at a picnic featuring live music from Mt. Thelonious. Check out the slideshow below for photos of the event!

Installation and event photos by Benjamin Scherliss