An Interview with Tomye Neal-Madison
Tomye Neal-Madison is an exhibiting artist in this year’s Art of Living Black. She’s been showing her work in this annual show since its inception. We’re pleased to share some of her thoughts about her art and what inspires her to create.
Please be sure to visit the gallery to see this diverse collection of African-American artists through March 8. Our galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday and are always free to the public.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.
A. My formal Art education began learning fine Art techniques within Dobbins Technical High in Phila., PA. While living in Phila., I enhanced my scholarly and Artistic skills with employable skills of Advertising, Fashion Design, receiving a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design. Soon after graduation, during the mid 70’s, I ventured from family and moved to San Francisco, to begin a professional Artist Life. I learned more substantial skills, Business Math Media Production, Welding & various Art programs as computers replaced hand-made imagery. I’m fortunate my knowledge results in employability and freelance contract work.
Q. What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.
A. I’m a proponent of integration of Art with any other knowledge, as viable connections that boost retention. As a Visual storyteller, I enjoy a process of making Art which involves research, attentiveness to oral stories, looking at photographs and other references such as maps, books, documents, etc. which help me create images to remind viewers of crucial past occurrences that affect the present and future.
It seems my shift from universal subjects to my current images, have political overtones. The most recent inspirational Artworks created from Dec. 2017- Feb. 2018, are the result of having joined the National Women’s Caucus for the Arts last November. This is an organization that I felt ready to become a member. I encourage anyone to review their website and mission. I now express matters affecting “working people” which are out of kilter. This includes the Art I’m exhibiting at the Richmond Art Center, the Pacific Pinball Museum and SpiritHaus.
Of a total different path, is my series of profiles fabricated with Fused Slumped Glass.
These are light expressions of one Artist supposedly meeting another. In reality most haven’t met. This is using Artistic license.
Q. How did you become involved with the Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?
A. During the mid 1990’s while I was gallery director of a non-profit Center for Visual Arts, I met Jan Hart Shulyer and subsequently her friend Rae Louise Hayward. Sometime during our discussions of business and life, they told me of their desire to have TAOLB. Once it became a reality, of course, I accepted their invitation to participate. I’ve only missed one year of the 22 years it has been presented to the public. They would be proud.
Rae and Jan only knew my Art as an interpretation of a fortunate life, encouraged by my Mom and Dad, siblings and friends. Typically, I rendered lovely portraits, pleasing renditions of musicians, children, city scenes. Since they’ve passed on, my Art reflects my life shifts from compromising, sad, taken aback, enlightenment, beautiful and now historical. The latter, I believe would delight them in honoring their vision.
Q. What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.
A. Mom, now 92, told me that I was 6 years old when a teacher gave her a watercolor tin as a gift for me. The teacher was impressed with my abilities. I continue my love of Art throughout my life. At times when my employment wasn’t Art related, I was able to exhibit and sell what I created beyond work hours. I’m classically trained from a technical high school, obtaining a BFA degree from college and participating in workshops.
Q. Who are your inspirations?
A. Tamayo Rufino, Romare Bearden, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Gordon Parks, Claes Oldenburg, Samella Lewis, Louise Nevelson, Elizabeth Catlett, Kitagawa Utamaro, Carrie Mae Weems, Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Goldsworthy, Martin Puryear, John Wehrle, etc.
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not making art?
A. Enjoying time with my buddies and friends, going to plays, movies, music performances and helping with whatever each needs.
Q. What’s on your bucket list?
A. To live and remain healthy for at least as long as my Mom. Who knows what will be possible for me to do within 20-30 years.
Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?
A. Martin Puryear, has an awesome imagination of fabrication on a large scale. I’m moving in that direction and could be inspired by his mentorship.
Thank you, Tomye.