Tamara Natalie Madden

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Tamara Natalie Madden
Tamara Natalie Madden.jpg
Born16 August 1975
Died (aged 42)
Known forPainting, mixed media

Tamara Natalie Madden (16 August 1975 – 4 November 2017) was a Jamaican-born painter[1] and mixed-media artist working and living in the United States.[2] Madden's paintings are allegories whose subjects are the people of the African diaspora.


Madden was born in St. Andrew,[1] Jamaica. She moved to America from Jamaica permanently when she was an adolescent. [1] She studied at several universities including the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. In 1997 Madden became ill with IgA nephropathy.[1] While ill, Madden rediscovered art. Art helped her to heal emotionally, so she decided that it was important to pursue it further. She received a kidney transplant from her brother in 2001,[1] and participated in her first art exhibition that same year. Her first solo exhibition was in 2004, and it garnered her an interview with the late James Auer of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[3]

After her solo exhibition in 2004, Madden relocated near Atlanta, Georgia. She met her mentors Charly "Carlos" Palmer and WAK (Kevin A Williams) while living in Atlanta. In 2007, Madden debuted a series entitled, "Kings & Queens", which focused on heightening the everyday person. Her work continued to focus on recognizing nobility, honor, and respect in those often overlooked by society. Her subjects can be perceived as wealthy and powerful, but for the artist, the imagery often represents a power that exudes from within.

Madden created images based on her memories of the people of her native Jamaica, placing them in high-status fabrics (raw silks, colorful satins, etc.), that mimicked those worn by royalty. Birds were a common theme in many of Madden's paintings, chosen as a personal symbol of her freedom from illness. Madden's influences were varied, and included Gustav Klimt, Milwaukee artist Ras Ammar Nsoroma, African royalty, Egypt, Asia, and the clothing worn by native African and Indian women. She chose to paint imagery that represented the people of the African diaspora.[4]

The Black Queen (2010) by Tamara Natalie Madden

"Similar to the works of Gustav Klimt, Madden clothes the goddess in a boldly patterned dress with clear ties to the arts and crafts movement and its populist underpinnings of advocating for art made by the people for the people. The unique quilting of the dress distinguishes the wearer while harkening to feelings of home and of natural, honest labor. Additionally, Madden's use of decadent colors and gold gives her subjects a life of indulgence that they never had."[5]

Several of her pieces are in the collection of different departments at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and also in the permanent collection of Alverno College in Milwaukee and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Her exhibition at Syracuse University in New York yielded a positive review from the Syracuse newspaper, The Post Standard.[4] Madden's paintings have been featured in the New York Times, The Morning News,[6] Upscale Magazine published by Bronner Bros.,[7] the Gleaner Company,[8] The Huffington Post,[9] and On-Verge | Alternative Art Criticism.[10] In 2014, Madden was named as one of 40 black artists to watch by MSNBC's The Grio.[11]

Madden's solo exhibition at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust[12] garnered positive feedback from local art critics and observers. Her exhibition entitled, Out of Many, One (the Jamaican motto) sought to expand the visual repertoire of viewers and their perceptions of Jamaica and its people. "Ms. Madden's recasting of the poor and neglected may remind an observer of Kehinde Wiley's regal portraits of inner-city black men, currently on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. What distinguishes Ms. Madden's work, however, is the specific focus on Jamaica."[13] Madden's work was featured at Art Basel Miami with Mocada Museum and International Visions Gallery. In an interview with Okay Africa, Madden, and several other artists talked about the inspirations for their works.[14]

Madden resided and worked in the Atlanta area and was a fine art professor at Spelman College.[15] Two weeks after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Madden died.[16] She had one daughter.[17] Her younger brother, Woolie Madden Jr. - a former member of the YouTube group Super Best Friends Play - honoured her death by getting a back tattoo based on her art.[18][importance?]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Tamara Natalie Madden - View Obituary & Service Information". Tamara Natalie Madden Obituary. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  2. ^ "Artist who painted ordinary people into royalty dies at 42". Fresno Bee. 10 November 2017. Archived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  3. ^ Auer, James (16 June 2004). "After poverty and illness, artist paints to survive". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Rushworth, Katherine. "Uneven show by 3 African American women offers food for thought at Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse". The Post Standard.
  5. ^ Kersten, Ben. "Tamara Natalie Madden's beautiful images, Goddesses inspired by Jamaican culture". AADAT. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  6. ^ Rabarison, Karolle. "The Guardians". The Morning News. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  7. ^ Henderson, Tiesha (1 January 2010). "The Dreamer". Upscale Magazine. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  8. ^ Gordon, Sharon(Feb.25–3 March 2010),"Gallery offers new outlet to artists", Extra North America, A Gleaner Company Publication, Vol.2 Issue 8. Retrieved 13 June 2011
  9. ^ Lambertz, Kate Abbey (16 October 2012). "'Visions of Our 44th President,' Exhibit of Barack Obama Art, Opens at Detroit Museum". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  10. ^ Slade, Tiffany Nicole (4 August 2011). "Everyday Heroes: Behind the Art of Tamara Natalie Madden". On-Verge. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  11. ^ Souleo, Souleo (3 January 2014). "40 amazing black artists to watch in 2014". The Grio. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  12. ^ "/ccpa/". TribLIVE.com. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  13. ^ Solomon, Daniel. "Artist's portraits give insights to life in Jamaica". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  14. ^ Suss, Ginny (11 December 2015). "Fade to Black: On the state of artists of color at Art Basel". Okay Africa. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Remembering Spelman's Tamara Natalie Madden, Artist and Professor". Atlanta Tribune. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Renowned Artist Suddenly Passes Away". Afropunk. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Obituary: Tamara Natalie Madden, Atlanta artist and Spelman professor". ARTS ATL. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  18. ^ @WoolieWoolz (28 May 2018). "This is a temporary stencil based on my sister's paintings. I'm feeling really good about making it permanent. :) (Line art by @PhilDragash, tattoo to be inked by @kessel_run)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

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