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Obit: Artist Tamara Natalie Madden Transformed ‘Everyday Folk’ into Royalty through Painting

Tamara Natalie Madden
Written by Xavier Murphy

Her Jamaica-Inspired Work Continues to Impact the Art Community

SNELLVILLE, Georgia — Tamara Natalie Madden, Jamaican-born fine artist and art and visual culture professor at Spelman College, died at her home in Snellville, Georgia, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, as a result of ovarian cancer. She was 42.

Tamara was well-known for her artistic focus on the social, spiritual and cultural identity of people of African ancestry and her ability to dynamically transform everyday people into nobility in her work. She once wrote: “Each piece of art is an allegory that represents the soul and spirit of the individual. Their regal state embodies all that is often hidden and overlooked. My work is not about egoism; it is about empowerment of the spirit and recognition of the beauty within. The golden headpieces worn by all of the subjects in my paintings represent mystical crowns, halos, armor and weaponry for the spiritual warriors. The birds in my paintings are symbolic of my personal struggle with illness and a representation of my survival and freedom from it.”

In 1997, Tamara was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called IgA nephropathy (Berger’s Disease), which led to nearly four years of dialysis treatment. During this time, she dove into her craft, allowing her artwork to provide respite from her illness. In 2000, she ventured back to Jamaica, and while there, met her long-lost brother who, upon seeing how the illness had impacted his sibling, offered his own kidney so she could undergo a transplant. The surgery, in 2001, was a success, and with a new lease on life, Tamara vowed to pursue her art full-time. She held her first exhibition that same year.

Tamara went on to hold numerous solo and group exhibitions nationwide and has been featured in publications such as Upscale Magazine, HuffPost and The New York Times. In 2014, The Grio named her one of 40 black artists to watch. Many of her pieces are in the permanent collection of prestigious universities such as the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center and the women’s and gender studies and history departments at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her work is also in the permanent collection of Alverno College in Milwaukee, The Mother Kathryn Daniels Conference Center in Milwaukee, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, as well as many collections of note worldwide. She completed an extensive body of work, which can be viewed at her website.

Tamara is survived by her daughter, Nidalas Simone Madden, her parents and a host of other relatives and friends. There is a fund established in Tamara’s name to help support her daughter during this time; donate at www.gofundme.com/tamaratheartist.

Funeral arrangements for Tamara Natalie Madden:
Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017
Tom M. Wages Funeral Home
3705 Highway 78 West
Snellville, GA 30039

About the author

Xavier Murphy