The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

J. Madison Rikh, “Vagina Cross” (image courtesy the artist)

J. Madison Rink

Age: 74

Location: New Mexico

Artistic Medium: Photography

Who are you and what do you do?

Contemplating my life as an “elder,” I feel paradoxically young — although it seems I have been alive for many centuries, living many different lives. Today, I am completely devoted to my art and work, inspired by the spirits of the land on a mountaintop in southern California.

One day, in distress about the meaning of my life, I sought help from the Universe and soon after began to see faces in nature. It was with intention that I chose rock as my canvas because of their rich cultural and religious histories. Despite a lifetime of significant trauma, I have primarily worked to achieve personal transcendence. Having accomplished some important dreams, I know I have not yet reached the pinnacle for this body of work. Yet I am deeply grateful and proud to be included in several scholarly archives for future scouring. This body of primal work represents the embodiment of a traumatic and profound journey to the underbelly of my psyche and eventual transcendence; all are related to my history living as a homosexual and survivor of severe incestuous sexual assaults as a young girl. My multicultural image of the “Vagina Cross” sums it all up.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

Antique “tribal” art, Asian art, spirits of the land, and women who have gone before me.

Describe your coffee order.

Double espresso.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Overcoming my childhood; drugs, alcohol and sex addition.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Hunting for my rock-embodied spirits in nature.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

Beyond Boundaries at the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

Transcendence for all who have suffered sexual violence and hate.

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I have it figured out what everyone else seems to already know.

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

How is this work related to the underbelly of the psyche?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

Donald Trump.

What did you make when you first started making art?

A watercolor of a woman in shock and a collection of over 90 self-portraits reflecting severe trauma.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Throwing shade.

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

Anything by Frida Kahlo.

What are your plans for pride month?

Feeling a deep reverence for our very long and rich history.

What is the future of queerness?

Freedom and safety.

Back in my day…

Ninety-seven percent of people thought homosexuals were sick and perverted. We were feared and hated, and that is a significant weight to carry and release.

Name one guilty pleasure.


Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

Not truly. I miss Los Angeles, though.

How do you stay cool during the summer?


What is your favorite type of milk?

When it’s ice cold.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

Zachary Small was a writer at Hyperallergic.

One reply on “Queer Artists in Their Own Words: J. Madison Rink Finds Inspiration From Nature After Surviving Trauma”

  1. I’m personally happy to hear more about the art practice in this one… but gosh darn does it have one of the most problematic tonal shifts than most of the others in this series… who edited this and said “yeah this doesn’t need any follow up questions, let’s just move on from incestual assault to what your coffee order is.”

    This just feels like tokenism… and it might just be a quantity over quality issue, but none-the-less it leaves a real nasty taste in my mouth.

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