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Inside the guest room of Tama’s New York City apartment, a large acrylic painting of a pooch sporting a parrot hat, with crackers raining down, steals the attention from everything else in the room, including the plush, polka-dot-duveted bed.
“I love the absurdity of life and my paintings show that,” said Tama, an artist, educator, real estate broker, and Airbnb host. “One of the things I love about New York is that it’s all about the absurd and how much you want to enjoy that… or be driven nuts by it.”
Embracing absurdity has become a valuable coping mechanism for Tama because life hasn’t always been parrots, polka dots, and pooches. When the economy took a turn for the worst, it took a toll on her livelihood as a painter and real estate broker. Worst came to worse when she was diagnosed with a serious health condition that incurred cripplingly costly bills.
But adversity has a mysterious, magical way of spawning salvation. Tama became an Airbnb host, which introduced her to new friends from around the world—Buenos Aires! Glasgow! St. Paul!—and to a new source of income that’s given her freedom to pursue her artistic passions. She has an Etsy shop where she sells her paintings as well as handcrafted silver and beaded jewelry.
The medical bills aren’t as overwhelming now, and starving artist she ain’t.
“Airbnb was instrumental in helping me prevent disaster,” she said. “One thing I learned early on is that New York is an early incubation center for developing your ideas. Maybe you’re not going to have just one job in this life—you’re going to be able to explore several avenues and develop all of them. I see Airbnb as just another extension of that.”
While staying in Tama’s apartment serves as a part of the escape-to-New-York experience, the artist thrives on getting lost in her work, capturing the chaos that life so inevitably brings, and ultimately sort of poking fun at it. “Basically, I like to make art that questions and disturbs what we think we know and feel, and this is the area within any art that interests and excites me the most,” she said.
The unlikely juxtapositions of animals and objects in her artwork—particularly objects of popular culture “because humans load them with meaning”—mirror the city’s vibrant tapestry of colliding cultures. “The parallel to my art that guests take home would be my suggesting they try to experience NYC as interconnecting neighborhoods and to look at the romance with the absurd here rather than being overwhelmed by the concept of this huge city they must protect themselves from. I do get a lot of feedback from guests saying they enjoyed having that perspective on the city.”
Tama and her partner Nancy, a Columbia University Teachers College professor, are proud parents of a pug named Leonard Cohen, who eagerly helps out with hosting duties. “He’s our official greeter,” she said, “and loves meeting people as much as we do.”
That’s music to our ears.
Visit the Airbnb Stories page to take a tour of Tama’s apartment. Learn more about Tama and her absurdly entertaining fine art at trrobertson.com.
Want to stay with Tama and Leonard Cohen next time you’re in New York? See Tama’s Airbnb profile.