Tamara Natalie Madden was born in Jamaica and migrated to the United States as a teenager. While battling a life-threatening disease as a young woman, she turned to painting as a lifeline. She survived and continued to paint, she says, “in remembrance of other survivors.” Her work is influenced by her vivid memories of growing up in rural Jamaica. As she says in her Artist Statement, “Some of the specific influential memories that appear in my work are those of the working class; the stern elders; the dutiful children. Women appear frequently in domestic situations, just as I recall: care-taking, manufacturing, protecting and sharing wisdom with youth. My creative expansion, however, has allowed me to incorporate elements of religiosity including pieces that focus on the study of the human figure and black female/male spirituality and love.”
Madden has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions and her work can be found in private and public collections including Vanderbilt University, TN; and Alverno College, WI. She was a recent recipient of an individual grant from the Puffin Foundation for her project “Never Forgotten” which focuses on combating poverty.
MW How do you balance a life-threatening illness, motherhood, being an artist, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur?
TM Now that I have raised my daughter and sent her off to college. I just send her money and she calls me or face times with me. I am there to give her advice and guidance. I allow her to become the adult and youg woman that I want her to be. Balance means that “I take time out to myself to have a peace of mind to function and sto stay healthy.” I believe that taking care of myself and staying healthy is very important when you are battling a life threatning illness, being a mother, successful artist, photographer, and writer.
MW When did you start painting?
TM I’ve been working on art my whole life. But I didn’t start painting professionally, as a full time career until shortly after my kidney transplant where art became my lifeline, and a catalyst for me to survive my life or death kidney disease in 2001. I believe that by going through such a tremendous health crisis it brought on a new perspective on my life as a woman and a artist. My full professional career didn’t really start until I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2005.
MW Did you have any formal training?
TM I am self taught, but I have been mentored by some really talented and gifted artists over the years.
MW What is your favorite work that you have painted so far?
TM To be honest with you I cannot choose just one piece, they are all my babies, it is impossible to choose just one of your children.
MW What is the theme of your current exhibition at the Zucot Gallery in Atlanta?
TM Dignity the Subjectivity of Color is the theme of the current exhibit in Atlanta. I am heigntening the everyday person, which comes from living life in Jamaiaca allowing the everyday man to wear their inner beauty on the outside. All the people are very stoic, royal, and regal in all of my paintings.
MW How do you choose what pieces you want to use for an exhibition?
TM If it’s in a particular series, Usually, all of my work that I have been creating over the years fits into a certain theme for the exhibition.
MW What new projects are you working on?
TM I am constantly painting, but when I am not painting I am writing. I am actually working on a children’s book “Azana’s Ribbons,” about a young child battling kidney failure. The children’s book is to help raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and battling a life threatnening illness.
MW Which artists are your biggest influence?
TM When I found my creative voice the artist that inspired me was Gustav Klimt with his innovative use of gold embellishments that Klimpt portrayed in his beautiful pieces. I am very inspired by African culture for example Akon culture and Egyptian art. The use of quilt patterns. I am inspired by so many different people, places, and things when I am seeking a new painting for art.
MW How many paintings do you average per year?
TM More than 20 small and large paintings
MW If you were not an artist what would you be?
TM I have been an avid reader since the age of four years old. However, there are times when I take a short break from painting and focus on writing on the side which is another passion of mine artistically, in between sketching, doing the research, and planning for a new upcoming painting or project. My heart exists in the field of writing articles, books, and various photography projects.
I would definitely be a writer, or better yet I am currently a writer, I have written several articles, I have started a blog, I have written a memoir based on my life story and battling a life-threatening illness. I am currently writing a children’s book “Azana’s Ribbons,” about a young girl battling kidney failure and requiring a kidney transplant. Art is overall by life in every genre that you could possibly imagine, art feeds my spirit, mind, body, and soul! I eat, dream, and live for all forms of art and the ability to thrive and live on creativity simply nourishes my soul as an artist.
MW Who is your biggest supporter?
TM My daughter is definitely my biggest supporter, she and I grew up together, she modeled for me when I lacked different models and muses for certain projects. My daughter has attended all of my art shows faithfully throughout the years, as a result she has developed a love for acting, sketching ,and drawing in her own right, and with that solid foundation I plan to help her nurture and grow her creativity as an artist as well. At the end of the day I just love her so much!
MW Do you ever feel uninspired or feel an overwhelming need to take a creative break from painting with such a demanding schedule to produce great pieces for your livelihood?
TM I have been an avid reader since the age of four years old. There are times when I take a short break from painting and focus on writing on the side, in between sketching and doing research, and planning for my next project. I cannot really say that I get uninspired I just take short breaks and work on other creative ventures all related to painting and creating beautiful and memorable pieces of art.
Tamara Natalie Madden’s art exhibition will be up until Noveneber 5, 2015 at the Zucot Gallery. If you are visiting or currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia please stop by and support a beautiful and talented artist.