Tamara Natalie Madden (TMN) is a force of nature that has to be reckoned with – but on her terms. She does not seek your approval to exist – she will not be put into anyone’s box. She struggles through her problems and she is a ‘survivor’ in the true sense of the word. Art and expression ooze through her veins and she strives to portray freedom and capture beauty in non-traditional ways. The colors in her paintings are royally rich and the faces of her subjects depict neither sadness nor joy, but a sense of contentment. Style.No.Chaser stumbled upon TMN’s work our curiosity senses immediately started to tingle.
Tamara was kind enough to grant us an interview which you can see below.
“I’m stubborn, and used the negativity as a catalyst to push…”
We know from reading your biography that you were born in Jamaica and then moved to the United States at an early age. Could you tell us why you moved, where you moved to, and the how you adapted to your new surroundings? Where do you live now?
I moved to America because my mother brought me here for a purported better life. I moved to Milwaukee, WI, and I did not adapt well to my surroundings. I had a less than pleasant experience living there for a variety of reasons and longed for my homeland. Currently, I live in Atlanta.
What does art mean to you?
Art is life to me, it is truly like breath. It is my vehicle for expressing my joys, fears, hopes and angst with the world.
What type of artist would you describe yourself as?
I don’t know how to classify myself as an artist, I don’t like boxes.
What is your preferred medium to create art?
Currently, I prefer acrylic and mixed media.
You underwent a successful kidney transplant in 2001 and your brother was the donor. We read that this event brought you closer to art – how so? Also, how does the transplant show up in your works (if at all)?
I found art again when I became ill. Art saved my life just as much as the transplant itself. I drew pictures while on dialysis, and had plans to pursue it as a career. Luckily, I had the opportunity to do so. The birds are symbolic of my freedom from the dialysis machine, and are my way of infusing a part of my experience in to some of my work.
“Freedom” is a big part of your message – what does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is my ability to express my thoughts, feelings and ideas without inhibition, it’s also about being who you are and living life on your own terms.
You have stated in the past that being a “professional artist” is a fulfilled promise that you made to yourself a longtime ago – why did you want to be a professional artist and at its core, what does creating art professionally mean to you?
I have always been an artist at the core, but I always felt that art had power, and if I could create works that touched people, I would be doing more than just appeasing myself, I would be impacting the world. For me, that makes what I do even more important. Artists (all artists) have always been the keepers of history and time. Without us, there is no history.
Africa and the portrayal of Africans appear in many of your works. Have you ever visited Africa? What does the continent of Africa symbolize in your mind and in your work?
I’ve never visited Africa, and I know that my work looks “African,” per se, but the people featured in my work are from the African Diaspora. Some are African, but most are African-American, Afro-European, and Afro-Caribbean, and that’s the beautiful thing because we are all one, no matter how long our ancestors have been gone from the continent.. You can take any person of color and crown them and clothe them in fabric, and they look like royalty. That’s what the work is about anyway–looking beyond what we think we see. Africa informs my work for a variety of reasons. Many of its countries have great history and lineage and many of the beautiful colors and fabrics that I use are inspired by the continent and its various cultures.
We really love how you name your fine art series with titles like (P)light, Guardians, Kings and Queens, etc. – please elaborate on how you name these groups of work.
P(light) was a very small and ongoing series dealing with my very personal experience with the struggles I had with illness, and my battle to find solace. The interplay of the words I used describes the depth of struggle that I went through, and the light that was at the end of the tunnel. The Guardian series featured imagery of the people that I deem to be the protectors of beauty, spirituality, culture, and humanity. The “Kings and Queens,” series was my first series, and as with most of my work, it deals with the royalty within, one’s intrinsic strength and beauty.
The faces in your works have a very distinctive look – they are neither happy nor sad. Could you describe the facial expression that you are capturing?
You’re correct; they are neither happy or sad, but content–at peace in their existence and surrounding. There are many people in the world who just want peaceful and content lives, and in my experience, these people exude an unspoken strength.
What is the worst critique and highest honor that you have received about your work?
I’ve been told that my work completely sucked, and that I should stop creating. Luckily, I’m stubborn, and used the negativity as a catalyst to push myself to get better. For me the highest honor always comes from the people who are emotionally and spiritually connected to the work. I am honored that my art moves people viscerally, and inspired to continue to push the boundaries of my creativity.
We know that some of your uncles who lived in the rural areas of Jamaica were Rastafarians who sculpted in wood and drew amazing pictures – did they ever give you any of their works? Have they ever critiqued your art? How did/do they influence you?
One of my uncles was so enamored with my work, that I gave him a few paintings–it was an empowering and humbling feeling. My uncle Carl was a great inspiration without even knowing it. What he created came from the heart, and was so raw and natural that I don’t believe that the thought about it. I learn from example, so watching him work was a great inspiration.
What music to you listens to get you up when you are down?
I listen to so many different genres of music, and it’s all based on my mood. Some of my favorite artists include, Evanescence, Portishead, Ayo, Aya, Esthero, Jah Cure, Popcaan, Beres Hammond…The list is long and varied. Most of the time though, a little reggae or dancehall can pull me out of any funk that I may fall in. :0)
What advice would you give to up and coming artists?
Be open to raw critique. Take advice. Think about art, paint or draw daily. Commit to mastering your craft, and never, ever give up on your dreams no matter how difficult.
What is the best for of advice you have ever received?
What is the best quote you have heard or read?
My mantra is a quote that I received from my beloved friend in my senior year in high school, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I live by it, because I never stop pursuing my dreams, no matter the circumstance.
What is the best way to see and buy your art?
I’m working on a new series that I will be sharing soon. I’m very excited. Please follow my work on Facebook. And visit my websites here and also here. I will be updating the website soon to make it more user and mobile friendly.
See more of Tamara’s work in the slideshow above.
See similar features here.