Photo by Ashley Myers

Meet Madrona Redhawk, an American high school senior, a descendant of several historically Southeastern Native American tribes and an abundantly free thinker. Madrona may also be the coolest makeup look creator and performance artist Instagram has ever seen. With Native American roots, born in the Midwest and relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, her diverse influences inform the calculated chaos of her unique artistry. Just dive into her IG feed and you will find an eclectic mix of purposeful face-paint masterpieces and mistakes that will leave you mesmerized every time.

Originating with research into Native American ceremonial paint, Madrona became fascinated by the use of color and abstract shapes while utilizing the canvas of her own beautiful yet seemingly unamused face to make her magic. Her soft and symmetrical facial features leave plenty of room for her own brand of absurdity, and she uses the opportunity to make a parody out of the concept of wearing makeup at all, in a way.

While it’s admittedly refreshing to see someone turn the traditional idea of “beauty goals” on its head using originality and authenticity, at the end of the day, Madrona Redhawk is just doing her thing. Furthermore, this cheeky rebel has plenty of insights beyond the meanings we may objectively assign out of interest with her unique art.

Catch our conversation about making things, the deal with living in Las Vegas and what she gets up to on a regular basis.

Hi Madrona! Where are you from and what are you currently doing in life?

I was born in Kansas but moved to Las Vegas at three years old, so I am definitely a product of the city! I am a ⅓ Native American, and my tribes are Choctaw, Creek, and Shawnee. I have an older sister and I live with my parents and my dog and cat (both adopted from shelters!). I am a senior in high school, and am president of the Native American club, and I plan on attending college in the Fall.

So what sort of stuff do you get up to on a regular basis? What’s your favorite way to spend your time?

I watch an embarrassing amount of TV! I am extremely impressionable and TV shows and movies have a huge effect on me, sometimes an exceptionally good movie will change the trajectory of my whole life. My Dad and I go biking almost every day and go hiking frequently. Nevada has the most mountains of any state, so there are endless adventures out there! I am very interested in eyes and color, and how humans perceive it. While color is real, the way we see it is far from its objective existence. Color is light, and light frequencies never actually “mix” into the colors we see. I am particularly interested in how color and the rest of the world objectively would “look”. Humans, and every other creature, are constrained by the instruments evolution has developed for us. I strive to know what the objective universe is. I am surrounded by it but am completely blind to it, and that fascinates me. Art is a huge part of my life and I love it, but in my heart I am a scholar and in my daily life strive for knowledge, not artistic perfection or mastery, but it is an amazing conduit.

When it comes to your art, you have an amazing Instagram account where you make an elaborate makeup look and then find interesting ways to ruin it. Is that right? Tell us what that’s all about.

Me destroying my makeup came about in a semi-accidental way. I started off with handprints, because while doing research into Native American face paint, I came across a lot of handprints. I saw a few sources explaining it was a symbol of humanity. I really liked the handprints on faces so I started to integrate it into my makeup. At first, it started out as part of my makeup and was much more subtle and I took photos of the finished product like usual. It wasn’t very recognizable and I wanted it to be more obvious, and the idea of putting it on as a topper and taking a video of it just came to me. It just happened that people liked it, and it grew from there. My mother had the idea of putting the makeup on with a sheet, and then my videos of putting on makeup using random objects grew from there.

When it comes to performance art, there tend to be multiple layers beneath what’s actually happening on a “real” level. Would you say that this applies to you? Or is it more for the aesthetic and the fun of creating something completely original?

There certainly isn’t a deep meaning to my videos at all. For some reason, it seems like a lot of people want there to be, and sometimes people comment elaborate interpretations of my art on my page. I have never been the type of artist who uses their art as a way to convey an overt message. Any meaning is subconscious and unintentional!

What draws you to keep making art? Has it always been one of your biggest passions?

I make art because it’s fun and gratifying! My main forms of art are my videos, makeup, and 3D design and drawing. It gets less fun but more gratifying as I go down that line, as it has taken me up to a year to complete one drawing, but after all that time, seeing all the detail is so worth it. I always loved drawing but never had any particular skill artistically as a child. I was always creative and resourceful but when I was young, that did not manifest into good art. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered I had any artistic skill at all.

What’s your experience of living in Las Vegas, a town that people often associate with a sort of escapist party vibe?

People have the worst misconceptions of Vegas! Other than if you work on the strip (which a lot of people, but not everyone does) locals pretty much stay far away from the strip. Although tourists literally are our entire economy, they are troublesome. Many come here thinking it is the lawless “wild west” and disrespect the city and themselves. Personally, the growth of Las Vegas in recent years is disheartening. Gentrification is taking over and the gorgeous lands surrounding Vegas are being destroyed for track housing. The adorable neighborhoods that were filled with unique houses on large lots are being turned into track housing. Bonnie Springs, a beloved attraction by Red Rock, is being turned into houses for the filthy rich. I fear that the land protected for tortoises will be turned into track housing. I worry for wildlife immensely, as the rich are trying to take away land protections for profit.

I know you’re in high school now – what are your plans for the future? Anything you are excited for in the near or distant future??

I am a little overwhelmed but excited right now. I am excited for college but I’m the first to admit that I’m a lazy student and am concerned about the workload. I love learning but hate homework! School has been a breeze for me for the most part, and I could always get by without doing homework, something I know I won’t be able to do in college since I plan on getting a PhD. I am excited and nervous, but at the end of the day I know I can achieve anything with hard work and dedication.