Tamara Natalie Madden is a Jamaican-born painter and mixed-media artist working and living in the United States. Madden's paintings are allegories whose subjects are the people of the African diaspora.
Madden was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She moved to America from Jamaica permanently when she was an adolescent.
She attended the Frankfield Primary School in Manchester, Jamaica, and Rufus King International High School in Milwaukee, WI. She studied at several universities including University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Madden became ill with a rare disease for women and African-Americans called IgA nephropathy in 1997 and suffered immensely during that time. While living on the dialysis machine, Madden found art again. 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, 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.
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 continues 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 has created images based on her memories of the people of her native Jamaica, placing them in beautiful fabrics (raw silks, colorful satins, etc.), that mimicked those worn by royalty. Birds are a common theme in many of Madden's paintings, chosen as a personal symbol of her freedom from illness.
Madden's influences are varied, and include Gustav Klimt, West & East African Royalty, Egypt, Asia, and the clothing worn by native African and Indian women. She chooses to paint imagery that represent the people of the African diaspora.
"Here again we see the idea of identity, or lack of it, serving as a springboard for the artistic voice. Madden engages unidentified "everyday folk" and raises them to the stature of "kings, queens and warriors, who never had a chance to shine."
"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."
Several of her pieces are in the collection of different departments at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. She is 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. Madden's paintings have been featured in the New York Times, The Morning News, Upscale Magazine published by Bronner Bros., the Gleaner Company, The Huffington Post, and On-Verge | Alternative Art Criticism. In 2014, Madden was named as one of 40 black artists to watch by MSNBC's The Grio.
Madden's recent solo exhibition with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust 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."
Madden currently lives and works in the Atlanta area.