Melissa Ann Lambert



Mar 17 2011

SLAM FAD #4 Melissa Lambert: Syncopating Digital Synesthesia

by Terri Lloyd
posted in Featured Artist of the Day, Magazine, SLAM FAD




Doppleganger © Melissa Lambert 2010


SLAM: There is an interesting dichotomy of concepts you use to “reveal the deeper dimensions and innate spirituality that exist in the here and now of every moment.”  One side of the equation tends to run with the more logical or scientific, the other perhaps a more philosophical and psychological component.  As we look at the titles and the content of your work, it occurs that there is a sense of entrainment or synchronization. 

 Yet, this makes complete sense when one considers your background and perhaps processes.  Would you mind sharing your background with SLAM readers and perhaps discuss what brought you into the world of creative exploration and experimentation?


Melissa Lambert: My background involves a life-long fascination with science and mathematics, which eventually led to a job as a Software Engineer at Time Warner. My father Paul, an engineer, taught me math tricks as a child. He also taught me how to draw a three-dimensional house as if seen from above at the age of five (I, of course, pretended I ‘invented’ this method of drawing, and the teacher then taught it to the other kids in our kindergarten class).


My parents recognized my drawing talent early on and encouraged me to watch a TV show called “You are an Artist” by Jon Gnagy.  My father commented on my imagination, saying “I used to have an imagination like yours, but we all lose it as we age.”

That statement led me to practice my imagination every day; I was determined never to lose it.  I saw people dancing in the air and other images synchronized to the classical music my mother Lois babysat me with.


My high school art teacher Tom Wendt encouraged me to get an MFA, which for various reasons never happened. After becoming a self taught programmer I decided I was fed up “working for the man,” so I came home and did watercolors, pastels and graphite works on paper every night. Eventually, I lost my job due to a rotator cuff tear, and have done art ever since (about twenty minutes a day, due to said rotator cuff tear).


Liminal © Melissa Lambert 2008


SLAM: There is a distinct, for the lack of a better word, hallucinogenic sensibility with your imagery. Often an artist might be inspired and see the project done. Others allow the process to unfold organically. One wonders about this with your work. Would you share how you come about the manifestation of your images? Do you start with a distinct plan? How much of it is you, how much of it is, say, math or science and tools?

Melissa Lambert: I’m one who allows the work to unfold organically. I never start with a plan, which would go against my grain. I gather images, shapes, colors, and organic objects such as bits of plants or paintings I’ve scanned and copy them into my work. My process is random; I never know what I might think of or bring into the image. I remember once I looked at a piece I was working on and thought “I need a bubble in the upper right hand corner of the piece.’  So I googled ‘bubble’ and grabbed it off the net, rezed it up, and used it.  I like spontaneity.

Very little of what you see is math (algorithms), however math, science and music inform what I do.  I listen to music on random in the background as I work. Jazz, classical, singer-songwriter, rap and opera in foreign languages I don’t understand, and just about any other type of music you can think of comes up and influences the way my hand moves and my mind conceives. Often, I read a book on science and then do the work. I’ve often had comments that people can see math, science, and music in the work, which makes me happy.  I also like to think I get out of my own way.


Influences are diverse and include geometry, particle physics, holonomic brain theory, mythology, and Jung’s theories of synchronicity and the collective unconscious. I learned about Kandinsky in 2005.  The first time I saw a painting of his in person I openly wept, it moved me so much.


Visiting Diana Zlotnick, my collector, has also influenced me recently.  I never thought I’d combine text, figurative and abstract elements in the same piece.  When I visit, I see many works by famous artists, several of whom show up in the movie The Cool School.  At one point my work was hanging on a wall next to a Warhol Marilyn, and across from Llyn Foulkes.  I think the main difference between many pieces I see from artists using text and what I do is I like the idea of a fragment of a word, often repeated throughout the piece, as if floating and echoing in a dream or a half-forgotten memory.  I don’t want the words to take dominance.




Observing © Melissa Lambert 2007


SLAM: Speaking of which, what tools do you prefer when generating an image?  How long does it take to manifest an image on average?


Melissa Lambert: I use a large array of tools (geekette pun intended) depending upon my mood, but some mainstays are Photoshop for the functionality of the program and to assemble the final collage, an electronic drawing tablet, a screen capture tool, digital camera, scanner, and Apophysis and Apomap. I actively search for new tools to utilize as well.

It takes usually between two and four months to complete each image, however some of the works on paper can take up to a year to complete.


Fallin' In © Melissa Lambert 2009


SLAM: Do you have a specific realization for the work?  Meaning, do you focus specifically on generating a static image for print or lightbox, or do you create for interactivity, motion?  Do you have a preference?  And why?


This is a great question. David Coons, a friend who scans my works on paper, was instrumental in my decision to back-light my pieces back in 2006. It makes sense since I create the work on a monitor.  It just took me a long time to actually come up with the funds to create my first light box prototypes.  Future plans including using a new technology, LED panels, which can be produced in any shape or size imaginable.  The new technology is very exciting and driven by the signage industry.  The woman I’m working with said “anything you can imagine we can produce.”


When I explain my work I see it moving, and often dance to describe a piece.  So animation is definitely something I plan on doing, as well as continuing to create work back-lit in LED panels and my more traditional work on paper. And I’d love to do interactive images too.  The technology is here for that.  I don’t want to limit myself in terms of what I do in the future, but I know for sure I’ll never do performance art.  I’m too introverted for that.



Interpolation © Melissa Lambert 2008


SLAM: Psychedelic, soul to manifest, is a word that comes to mind as one experiences your work. Are you working toward a state of unfettered mind when composing your images? If so, what do you do, what is your practice to attain this unfettered expression?


Melissa Lambert: My hypnotherapist, Brennan Smith, is a cellular biologist with a degree in neuroscience.  After asking me what I thought were a series of odd questions he determined I have what he deemed “true synesthesia.” Colors, sounds, textures, smells; all the senses gets mixed up and mingled in my brain.  There is also an element of time involved; when I work I feel as if I’ve gone through a wormhole into another dimension.  When I’m done I feel like I’ve been ‘popped out’ and that I’ve been punched in the stomach (not a fun feeling).  I see auras and can hallucinate at will, which as an adult I’ve learned for the most part to ‘turn off.’  I have to in order to be able to get through the day.  When I look at my work I never remember how I did anything.  It’s the same with math, I don’t remember how I solve a problem, it’s very intuitive.  I rather like that mystery.  The ‘unfettered expression’ comes naturally; I don’t have to work at it.  Brennan also has commented “you have no filters in your brain which helps with your process.”



Continu Espace-temps © Melissa Lambert 2010


SLAM: Hugh Davies is quoted as saying, “Digital art is not a movement, like Impressionism, or Abstract Expressionism are art movements, but rather it is a medium –think video or watercolor….” What are your thoughts about digital art?  Where do you see going as a medium?  How do you see it influencing culture?


Melissa Lambert: I see it influencing culture more when emotion is more evident in the majority of the canon of work.  Much of what I see, in my opinion, is devoid of emotion.  Diana Zlotnick made a comment after seeing other digital art: “It never would have occurred to me that your work didn’t contain a lyrical, painterly and emotional quality.”  And I responded that her comment made sense in the context that I started out doing works on paper. Having said that though, I understand from what I’ve read about Kandinsky that many in his day viewed his work as being devoid of emotion.   I see a lot of emotion in his paintings. I went to John Baldessari’s retrospective three times before I “saw” emotion.  I went from hating it to loving it.  So I like to keep an open mind to something I may not care for, that I might change my mind upon further viewing.


I see digital art as yet just another tool of many.  Artists use what they have at hand.  Now we have digital methods available, why not use them?  I see no difference between a hand, brush, stick, and a canvas; or a mouse, electronic pen, monitor, and printer.  It all starts with a human being.  And I see the medium growing as people find better and more advanced methods of producing work and utilizing tools.

I do think that Digital Art may contain the seed of a new movement. Since it’s a relatively new method of expression we shall see…



Apsis © Melissa Lambert 2011


SLAM: Referring to your Jazz in LA series, how much of what we see is influenced by the structure of the music being played at the time you took the photos and composed the art?

Melissa Lambert: As you know, I’m very influenced by quantum physics and string theory's possibilities.  When I listen to jazz, I see it, smell it, and feel the texture and taste of it.  The music is so alive; it’s a quantum particle/wave dance.  I wanted to bring a small percentage of what I experience to share with others.  I wish I could reveal what is in my minds eye; it makes my corporeal work pale by comparison.



Calabi Yau © Melissa Lambert 2008


SLAM: Are there any other creative endeavors you are engaged in that you can or wish to share?


Melissa Lambert: I write poetry.  This poem, in particular, reminds me of quantum mechanics.  Like a dream, I only understood the meaning after writing the poem (in fact, years later!)
The art is like that too, it feels like a dream, and only afterward I assign meaning or see symbology.


A fold in time
Where folds are blankets
A hot gray country
Where blankets are not needed
An underground room
Is cold with blankets
And cloaked in time



Bicontinuous © Melissa Lambert 2010


SLAM: What’s next for you?


Melissa Lambert: I’ve got quite a few exciting things/projects in the works, some of which I can’t mention until they ‘materialize’.  I’ve got my light boxes in a window over at the new space for the LA Center for Digital Art (LACDA), they should be up for about three months, during a period when Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO will be showing amongst other well-respected artists. (I LOVE Devo!)

I’ve also got work in the permanent collection of the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art, and if things go well, I should be getting a permanent gallery sometime this year (mums the word on who the gallery is, until things get finalized).  Exciting stuff!


SLAM: If  SLAM readers want to learn more about you and your work, where should they go?


It’s been a pleasure answering these very thoughtful and insightful questions.



The Hologram © Melissa Lambert 2007


Addendum: I plan on teaching myself animation at some point this year. I expect this might mean I produce less of my regular digital work. 1/10/13: I am now in the process of learning animation.




my . artist run website