Tamara Natalie Madden, an artist and professor of art and visual culture at Spelman College in Atlanta, has died. She was 42.
The Tom M. Wages Funeral Home outside Atlanta confirmed her death, saying she died as a result of ovarian cancer at her home in Snellville, Georgia, on Nov. 4.
Madden was known for her artwork focusing on the social, spiritual and cultural identity of people of African ancestry — and her paintings that transformed ordinary people into royalty, the funeral home said in a statement Friday. She has said the golden headpieces worn by subjects of her paintings were meant to represent mystical crowns, halos, armor and weaponry for the spiritual warriors.
Many of her pieces are in the collections of institutions such as Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee; Alverno College in Milwaukee; and The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, among others.
After a rare diagnosis and kidney failure that left her on dialysis in 1997, Madden discovered her passion for art, and credited it with getting her through that difficult moment in her life. Already a proven fighter, disease overcame this time around, and she is survived by a daughter.
“No one is more affected by this sudden loss than her only child, Nini, a senior at Georgia Southern University who also works three jobs,” the GoFundMe that was set up for Madden’s daughter reads. “Tam instilled in her daughter a drive to succeed, and Nini has found her passion: she is pursuing a degree in education with a minor in theater, and has just started her teaching program. As we all try to cope with this sudden loss, we ask that you please give what you can to support Nini through this difficult time.”