Madam X

Theatre of Experience

February 17 - April 7, 2024


Opening reception:

February 17, 2024
5:00 - 9:00 pm


We are thrilled to announce the opening of Theatre of Experience, an exhibition of works on paper by Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist Madam X.

In the mid-1970s, in an abandoned chicken ranch outside of El Cajon, California, Madam X was seized by numerous visitations. She was given insights into abstract theories on eternal culture, eternal beings, and relational aesthetics. The experience revealed itself to her through the language of the body, sensations which compelled her to trace ecstatic hoops, loops, and swirls on paper. She recognized acutely at the time that these were instructions from another place. For three years, these directives flowed into her, eventually evolving into an extensive taxonomy and visual language. Shortly thereafter, the possession began to fade, leaving Madam X permanently altered and indebted to this sudden education.

For the last forty years, Madam X has developed an emergent practice of exploring her comprehension and integration of that psychic experience. This will be her third exhibition since the work began to manifest physically.

Theatre of Experience, a display of nine framed works at House of Seiko, focuses on Madam X's mandala drawings developed over the last fifteen years. Many of these paintings and drawings posit themselves as evolving works. They are records of the experience of her spiritual insights and were created solely for her pursuit of spiritual understanding. They contain intricately layered yet familiar images of humans, creatures, and other living things weaving through the sphere of time, attempting to return to the center of the world in which they have been born.

Press release by Ross Simonini

On a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles, I visited Madam X at her Los Angeles studio, a pair of hillside rooms in the artist’s home, which contain a map for an entirely new paradigm of reality. The room was a museum to another world, depicted in soothing colors, meticulous forms, poetic language, and an ongoing narrative of infinite unity.

Spread across the space were sculptures, drawings, paintings, pamphlets, zines, furniture, puppets, and a banner, all of which attempt to describe a very specific, spiraling force at the heart of existence. This is not a science fictional universe invented by a novelist or an intellectual theory by an armchair philosopher — it’s documentation of direct experience with mystical truth.

In the 1970s, in the year she refers to as “0000,” Madam X fell into a liminal state in which she began to perceive an unseen layer of the known universe, what she refers to as a “dark and webby blanket.” To me, she described a kind of fascial tissue that connects everything to everything, and referred to it as “Eternal Culture” — the place that “always has been and is always being.” In Eternal Culture, all of time, life, and space merge into a single flowing energy, which is often depicted in Madam X’s work as a river, circle, or a hypnotic spiral.

Over time, Madam X came to forge a relationship with this textural dimension. She observed as life forms rose and fell within it and developed a kind of tactile communication with its patterns, connecting with its movements as a surfer aligns with the tides. For three years, she lived primarily within this Culture, a period in which she first found her voice as an artist.

Eventually, she returned to consensual reality, gradually, slowly, and has continued to spend most of her time here, where the rest of us live. But she has never severed her relationship to this underworld. Even now, four decades later, she continues to learn from the Culture. From what I can glean, this is less like book learning and more of a kinesthetic transmission: a metaphysical push-pull, a telepathic inhale-exhale, an oscillation between the kinds of fundamental polarities that recall the forces of yin and yang.

Indeed, Madam X’s philosophy echoes many forms of esotericism, both East and West, from Taoism to Vedanta, Kabbalah to Rosicrucianism. Like those traditions, abstract ideas are conveyed through mandalas, triangles and diagrams of the numinous. And like hieroglyphics or Mayan codexes, or even the illuminated work of William Blake, images and text seem to conjoin into a universal, optical language. Sometimes, Madam X includes phrases like “All Being is a processing design and All Being is One.” to help decipher her paintings, and she has made dozens of books outlining her experiences and ideas, much of them published under a central pseudo-organization she calls “Human Being Society.” Of course, every person on planet Earth is a member of the HBS, and to illustrate this point, she has sometimes picked addresses from the phone book at random and mailed out membership cards to unsuspecting strangers.

As time has gone on, Madam X’s work seems to have replaced description with a pure, unannotated image. In this way, her painting recalls yantras — those sacred intersecting geometric forms in Hindu astrology, which are used to unlock spiritual understanding. Her works entrance the viewer with the artist’s exquisite skill and impeccable precision. Putting aside the vast cosmology; this work is remarkable for its craftsmanship and its innate visual harmony. Each image reaches for total balance. Each composition is a grand, ambitious attempt at synthesizing everything, from macro to micro, from galaxies to humans to those subatomic leptons.

This is the work of a highly developed artist who has only really begun to show her work in the last year, in her 70s. This late showing is not due to a willful withholding or refusal, but a simple disinterest in public exhibitions. This work is not easy for everyone to casually understand, and even the artist herself does not conform to the standards of artist identity. “Madam X” is not simply a pseudonym for the woman who lives in the woody hills of Montecito Heights and appears to physically make this work. Madam X, as far as I can understand her, is a kind of parallel entity who exists in the Eternal Culture, who the artist describes as “an ancient adventurer.”

The woman who bears a Christian name and appears to be made of flesh — she is only the channel for Madam X’s information. On this plane of reality, we can never perceive the true Madam X, nor can we accurately describe her in words. When I asked the artist whether she referred to Madam X in the 3rd or 1st person — for my practical writing purposes — she answered, “neither.” 

In the paintings, Madam X is depicted as a purple, genderless being with an elongated head and an Ibis-like beak. To stay in touch with this peculiar avatar requires constant spiritual practice, which the artist considers a lifelong vocation, a devotion to inner exploration.

This kind of dedication reflects the power of humanity’s longing for another world, which, I believe, we all feel in one way or another. You can find this desire in fairy tales, religions, the occult, fantasy, sci-fi, shamanism, and comics. We always have and always will yearn for these parallel existences, and it is the visionaries who will always be our pioneers, opening doorways for us to glance at something beyond the senses. Madam X is a true visionary and even more, she has the confidence of vision to disrupt our perception just enough to show us something new. The more we look at this work, the more mysterious the world around us becomes. It’s haunting and unsettling, but it’s also essential and unspeakably valuable. From the other side, Madam X offers the great gift of uncertainty to us all.

co-organized by: Libby Doyle
special thanks to: Axel Wilhite & Space Ten Gallery


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photography courtesy of Graham Holoch