Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Re:Purposed" at The Ringling, Part 2 -- Emily Noelle Lambert

My rule of thumb when visiting an art exhibit is to take a docent tour if one is offered.  It enhances my experience to learn about the artist and the context in which the works were done (plus I like being spoon fed the information!)  When the artist herself is on hand, I feel like I've hit the jackpot.  And so it was with Emily Noelle Lambert at the "Re:Purposed" exhibit at the Ringling.

Upon entering the space that houses Lambert's works, it was immediately apparent that her approach to the show's theme is a bit different from that of the other artists. While most deal with "found objects," Lambert works with "found forms."  Her creations are also distinguishable due to her heavy use of color (which is probably one reason I responded so immediately to her art).

Lambert with "Triumph" (2012)
I loved the story of how she came to the medium of sculpture.  Lambert is a classically trained painter who worked as a teaching artist at the Guggenheim for nearly ten years. (She now teaches at Parsons School of Design, Fordham and Yeshiva. Yes, she is the real deal.)  When teaching a class of sixth graders, she asked the kids to bring in some "junk" to put together into sculptures.  "Find the shapes," she urged them. The results were surprising and fun (and the kids loved it).  Inspired by their curiosity and enthusiasm, Lambert began to explore the approach herself, with striking results.

She calls her studio a "soup" to which she is constantly adding ingredients.  At any given time, several paintings are in progress and assorted items for use in a sculpture are scattered around the room.  Lambert will be painting and might suddenly think, "This color would be perfect for the side of that block of wood." She'll dash over, paint the block, and return to work on her painting.

Lambert with "Fortress" (2012)
Originally, Lambert's sculptures were all "totemic" in nature. She now creates wall installations as well in which the components "speak to each other" in some way. "The work is like a run-on sentence," she said. Not surprisingly, Lambert is always on the look-out for interesting items to include in her work. Her "Curio Logic II" includes pieces of cast-off metal from her brother's blacksmith shop while "Fortress" incorporates driftwood and an artist's palette. 

When the exhibit is taken down, the pieces will be returned to the soup of her studio.  Although the same components may be included in a later sculpture, the configuration is likely to be different. (In fact, the "Fortress" in the catalogue for the show is slightly different than the work on display.)  Given her approach, Lambert is always taking a fresh look at her creations and can respond to the space where her work will be shown. Her "Curio Logic II," for instance, was inspired by a portrait gallery in Room 3 at the Ringling.

If you are getting the sense that I was quite taken with both Lambert and her art, you'd be right.  It was a true pleasure to talk with her about her work and the New York art scene. I have no doubt the young students she taught equally enjoyed their time with her and will long remember the joy of creating their own sculptures.  In a time when arts education is a dwindling commodity, that is a true gift.

Next up:  Fan favorites in the "Re:Purposed" show.

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