I was so happy to connect with Melissa Ann Lambert via The Gallery Tally Project and Exhibit (March 29 at For Your Art in LA, details below/on Facebook). She generously shares with LFF about having art in her blood, her fascination with books, her interesting way of getting into art as a career, even some of her poetry! and more…
Where are you from? How did you get into art?
I’m a California native, I descend from three California pioneers - the Marsh, Castro, and Soberanes families. I was born in Anaheim in a hospital that was demolished when Disney expanded.
I descend from artists on both sides of the family - my maternal grandfather was an artist. He painted a variety of things - illustration art and landscapes, billboards, and hand-painted pinstriping on cars. My paternal great-grandfather built sculptures, and had a work included in the Chicago World Art fair of 1893. So art is in my blood, literally. My mother recognized my talent at an early age and encouraged me by exposing me to John Gnagy art kits, and my father taught me to draw a house as if seen from above and at an angle at the age of five.
Tell me about your inspirations, process.
My inspirations come from a deep curiosity about almost anything one can imagine. As a voracious reader, I worked in bookstores and Cal State Long Beach library. I remember thinking that nothing was boring, so I set out to find a topic that would bore me. I saw a book about the history of concrete. It was fascinating, of course. Science and math are strong influences, as is nature in all its manifestations. One of the best dreams I’ve ever had was flying in the solar system.
If I could clone myself I’d love to be an architect, brain surgeon, astronaut, musician, and inventor. I can sing and have been told by a music teacher that I have perfect pitch, But there are only so many hours in a day, and art is my chosen profession and my ‘inner necessity’ (as Kandinsky would say) is art.
My process is very detailed. I “drill deep” into the visuals and create tiny very nuanced work that ultimately I would like to see back-lit and large, at least 4’ square. As the digital work is created on a monitor this only makes sense.
A clear cool rise
Of gathering land, rolling thin stars
Strip gravity’s hum
The falling road dawn
fell free from it’s haze
Numb air pressed hard…
Blue trees loom black, fall leaves
Young scents rise with a
A dome-sheltered town
floats low far away…
So half-lighted hush
Fills eye swollen sky
Glass daylight strains up—
toward previous moon
The dust in the wind
Sifts down to the road
Tell me about your Tally Gallery show piece - how that came about and why that’s important to you.
When I first started taking art seriously (or sincerely) as a profession (I’m a former computer programmer) a male friend told me to hire a young male actor to ‘play’ me. “Have him graduated from a respected art school with an MFA. Your career will skyrocket. When people find out the truth pawn it off as performance art.”
I refused to do this, standing on the grounds that if I can help pave the way for wider acceptance of art by women - and esp. middle aged women - than I need to do that. As a feminist any opportunity I can take to help bring awareness of inequities in the art world I will eagerly take.
This project is so exciting because women (the majority of the contributors) and men are collaborating in a large project to bring awareness of gender inequality in the art world and beyond.
I’d like to also mention I’m a proud member of The Haggus Society. Conceived and implemented by visionary Terri Lloyd as a venue for (mostly) women artists over 40. We have a show up until the end of the month at pop-up space (as seen below).
Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?
Everyone who knows me is aware of my tenacity. Once I start a project I “don’t let go” until it’s done. When I concentrate I’m so consumed that getting interrupted elicits a huge startle response. As a former computer programmer who is good at math, making art has a similar feeling to solving math problems/coding.
Also, I have synesthesia similar to what I’ve read Kandinsky had - I don’t just ‘hear’ music - I see it, taste it, smell it, feel it. I see auras and I’ve said many times “I don’t need drugs, I’m already on them.” This plays into the art, for as Michael Ned Holte wrote, ” Employing an arsenal of digital tools, Melissa Lambert mines a hallucinatory territory embedded with personal codes and signals that lend her dizzying, pixelated surfaces unusual depth.”
She waddled upright like a worm on the night
The dark dwindled out like a pin
A rain dazzled tar-summoning mists from afar
The dull feather house smelled of tin
Leaves float warm like a cork on a storm
Smoke-streams spray crystal to ice
A wind spends out strings and flashes dew rings
Another shy dream to entice
Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?
Absolutely. My most ‘political’ pieces are my self portraits, one of which portrays a series of headless bodies with numbers on them and a cracked green signal light. The piece is titled “Okay.” This concept can extend to men as well as women, but the person featured is a picture of me.
Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
I would say this (esp. to young people): “Have a sense of play. Work can and often is fun. Just do it every day, and don’t care about what others or you think about it. The process is more important than the result. Expect to make some belly flops before you really hit your stride. The important thing is to make it a part of your daily process. And it helps to make work in different mediums, as I do when creating a watercolor and ink piece at the same time I’m creating digital work. The processes inform each other.
Melissa Ann Lambert
Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins. LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com, including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund. tags: melissa ann lambert. gallery tally.