Tamara Natalie Madden, was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica and raised in Manchester, Jamaica. It was during her childhood in Manchester that Madden was exposed to her first artistic influences. She continued to pursue art during her high school years, studying advanced literature, photography and creative writing. In 1992, when her art teacher passed from cancer, her sadness, along with teenage concerns, diverted her attention from art. Tamara created art sporadically for the next few years, with her passion eventually dissipating as life issues took precedence over her creativity. (http://www.tamaranataliemadden.com/)
In 1997, Tamara was diagnosed with a rare genetic kidney disease called IGA Nephropathy. Over the next few years she would watch her body deteriorate while she tried to maintain sanity amidst all of the toxins collecting in her body. In order to maintain some semblance of normalcy, she began to create again. In 2000, Tamara took a trip home to Jamaica in hopes of reuniting with family and finding a long lost brother. She had no idea that the trip would save her life. Her brother offered his kidney to her upon seeing the condition that she was in. This amazing offer was consummated in 2001 with Tamara undergoing a successful kidney transplant. That year she participated in her first art exhibition, making good on the promise that she had made to herself long ago to become a professional fine artist.
Her work has been featured in newspapers and magazines, including, but not limited to, the New York Times International, the Jamaican Gleaner, and Upscale Magazine. Many of her pieces are in the permanent collection of prestigious universities, such as the Margaret Cunninggim Center, Women and Gender Studies Department and History Department of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. She is also in the permanent collection of Alverno College in Wisconsin, and The Mother Kathryn Daniels Community Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin. She’s exhibited in many group and solo exhibitions throughout the United States and Canada and her art was recently chosen by Black Art in America to cover the book entitled: “A Time, A Season…A Commemorative Book to Honor Oprah Winfrey.” Additionally, she was a recipient of an individual grant from the Puffin Foundation for her project, “Never Forgotten”, which focused on combating poverty worldwide.
Tamara has always felt a connection to ‘everyday folk’, the working class, the unseen and unheard, the true warriors of our time. She realized, however, that many people who may have suffered through a similar struggle, did not want to revisit those struggles. With great thought and consideration for her message, she decided to amend her ideas. Inspired, by the golden period of Gustav Klimt and images of royalty from Egypt and West Africa; she decided to turn regular folk into representations of nobility. It seemed, in her view, to be the only way to allow them to be represented and appreciated for who they were intrinsically; kings, queens and warriors, in their own right, who never had a chance to shine, their austere appearance setting the tone for others to judge them. The embellishments with rich fabrics and gold present an opportunity for these people to be seen. The quilted clothing have a double meaning, on one hand representing a sense of distinction, while also allowing for a bit of nostalgia. The birds in the pieces represent a sense of freedom. It was her way of injecting her personal experiences into each painting and remembering her escape and survival from illness and the dialysis machine.
“My art is a reflection of my personality – vivid and buoyant.”
– Tamara Natalie Madden