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In Memoriam

Spelman Celebrates the Life of Professor Tamara Madden

November 2017

Spelman Professor Tamara Natalie Madden

Spelman College celebrates the life and legacy of Professor Tamara Madden, a talented painter and lecturer in the Department of Art and Visual Culture. While relatively new to the College, she was an extraordinary artist who enjoyed teaching and especially loved her talented Spelman students that she taught in her drawing classes and the materials and concepts courses she developed. We share our heartfelt sympathy with her family, students, faculty and staff colleagues at Spelman.

A Life Well Lived

Tamara Natalie MaddenMadden was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica and raised in Manchester, Jamaica. It was during her childhood in Manchester that she 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. Madden created art sporadically for the next few years, with her passion eventually dissipating as life issues took precedence over her creativity. In 1997, she 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, Madden 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 her condition. This amazing offer was consummated in 2001 when Madden underwent a successful kidney transplant. That year, she participated in her first art exhibition, making good on the promise that she made to herself long ago to become a professional fine artist.

An Art and Visual Culture Genius

Madden's art has been collected worldwide and 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 The Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center, the women's and gender studies department; and the history department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work is also in the permanent collection of Alverno College in Wisconsin, The Mother Kathryn Daniels Community Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and many collections of note worldwide.

She has exhibited in many group and solo exhibitions, and was a recipient of an individual grant from the Puffin Foundation for her project, “Never Forgotten,” which focused on combating poverty worldwide. She was recently added to MSNBC’s The Grio top 40 artists to watch for 2014.