Tulalip Tribes member James Russell Madison was born December 7, 1973, into a family steeped in traditional Salish and Tlingit Northwest-coast Native art. He began carving when he was 8 years old, his first lessons learned from his grandfather Frank Madison (1923-2002). An uncle, Steve Madison, was also an early teacher, and James learned abstract painting and sculpting from his father, Richard Madison (b. 1952).
Following graduation from Everett High School in 1992, James Madison went on to study art at the University of Washington, receiving a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 2000, followed by a bachelor's degree from the Pratt School of Fine Arts in 2004. His studies included courses in Native American Northwest-coast art history; Northwest-coast two-dimensional design and carving; metal sculpture; and glass blowing, fusing, and casting.
While James Madison is a master wood carver, he also works in a variety of contemporary media, including glass, bronze, and stainless steel, and seeks to combine the new with the old. He described his method as trying to "create art with an open mind in the sense that I am always thinking of new ways to add a modern twist to a traditional piece. This allows for me to help to keep my culture alive. As we move into the future, so do the teachings of my ancestors" (Madison website). One of Madison's major works is a 24-foot story pole in the hotel lobby at the Tulalip Resort and Casino. His artwork can also be seen at Tulalip's Hibulb Cultural Center, the Tulalip Health Clinic, Cabela's at the Tulalip Mall, Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo, Kayak Point Regional Park, Providence Hospital in Everett, and the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus. Pieces by Madison can be found in downtown Everett; Stanwood; Marysville; Shoreline; Whistler, British Columbia; and New York City.