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Dream of flesh with Rosy Lamb

Rosy Lamb grew up a homeschooler in a family of artists in the deep woods of New Hampshire, in the northeastern United States. In 1999, she graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 2001, she established her painting and sculpture studio in Paris. 

Rosy Lamb is best known for her intimate paintings, often painted on hand-cast plaster panels, which sometimes combine irregular contours, undulating surfaces or sculptural elements in their surface.  

In recent years, she has been working on a new series of sculptures and bronze furniture, at the foundry Fusions located in Auvergne. These new sculptures use innovative techniques for making unique forms out of hot wax, drawing inspiration from her training as a painter and her intimate knowledge of bronze casting.   

Rosy Lamb has received multiple awards and travel scholarships for her painting and sculpture and has exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia. She has also published a children’s book called “Paul meets Bernadette” (she was listed as one of the Publisher’s Weekly Flying Starts in 2014). She is represented in Paris by the Guido Romero Pierini Gallery. 

1. Do you consider yourself as an emerging artist in contemporary art ?

Rosy Lamb: I find it difficult to think in terms of art movements and my own status in them. On a lucky day, I am available to be transformed by my work and I forget all concepts, all words, and am carried along by action and response. 


2. How would you describe your style ?

Rosy Lamb: I don’t consciously identify with any style. I create with my senses and it is for the viewer to recreate the work for themselves with theirs. I let myself to see through my body and the material, to explore and react, destroy and (re-)invent. Working from life, I have no idea what I will see when I come to the moment; everything unfolds as I work. I intentionally avoid narrative elements, clothes, objects. I prefer not to fix things in place. I do not see the nudity of my models: to me their nakedness is a blanket of colour, light and shadow. Even the model is not a subject in my work, but sometimes, somehow, the model magically stamps their presence into my strokes of colour. 


3. When have you been first interested in French Culture?

Rosy Lamb: I homeschooled as a child in our family home, an old wooden house with a panoramic view of the Ossipee Mountains atop a hill in New Hampshire (USA), accessible only via a long dirt road. As a teenager, I took French lessons with a woman in our village. When I first met my French teacher, Jean, she was in mourning for her sister Holley,* who had died unexpectedly the year before. Holley was an artist, a great one, who had lived in Paris for many years. During every lesson Jean spoke to me about Holley and her work and life in Paris and the south of France. Then, as now, I loved and was inspired by Holley’s unusual, sometimes dark and strange work. Jean’s stories about Holley’s life in Paris surely influenced my ending up in France. When I came to live in Paris a few years after finishing art school, I met several people who had known and loved Holley—friends, as well as her lawyer and banker. They were all kind to me, two became my students during those early years when I gave classes from my studio, and the lawyer did my French taxes in exchange for my work, as he had done for Holley. Holley’s story became, in some measure, my story. 

*You can see a limited selection images of Holley Coulter Chirot’s work online. Hopefully, someday her work will be more widely shown and archived. 

4. Do you remember your first contact with Art ? 

Rosy Lamb: A strong connection both to my first contact with art and also, in a small way, to Paris, dates back to my earliest childhood. Before I was born, the house I grew up in had been lived in for several decades by Elizabeth Olds, an artist of immense talent and creativity who was a close friend of my paternal grandmother’s. Olds painted, made prints, and also wrote and illustrated brilliant children’s books surrounded by the same forest that surrounded me as a child. She stacked wood in the fall and shovelled snow in the winter, as we did. The walls of our house were full of Olds’ paintings and prints. As a child my father told me the story of how, when Elizabeth Olds was very young, she got a grant to go to Paris to make paintings of le Cirque d’Hiver. She was such a good horsewoman herself that the circus invited her to join the troupe as a trick bareback rider! At seventeen, when I left home to go to art school in Philadelphia, I took with me an old box of her oil paints that she had left in our shed—they were still good all those years later—and some of her old canvases and stretchers.

5. What missions do you paint ?

Rosy Lamb: My artistic mission is to experience the endless and goalless transformation of seeing and feeling afresh every day via the notational devices of painting, sculpture and creation of all kinds. Experiencing failure, feeling my blindness and limitations, this is part of it too. Our blindness is infinite and it is exciting to encounter it intimately, without running away from it.

6. Painter, sculptor, author, you are a very accomplished artist…

Rosy Lamb: To me, they are all connected. Painting is at the center, necessary because as a painting unfolds, it transforms me even as I transform it. But I need to leave painting, too, to work in other areas, to collaborate with people, as I do with the workers at the foundry in Auvergne, casting, molding and doing metal work and inventing my own material processes. My children’s book, Paul meets Bernadette, about a friendship between two goldfish, is really about our multiple and sometimes skewed perspectives. The story came out of my experience of looking at things as a painter and sculptor. 

I am also studying ceramics now—such a big field that I will need to study it for the rest of my life alongside everything else. I have set up a kiln and a wheel in my studio in New Hampshire and am making pottery for our house as a starting point. This coming year, I will learn more about slip casting in order to start some trials for making surfaces for my painting out of slip-cast stoneware. I love engineering and inventing with materials. It relaxes me from the emotional exigencies of painting and sculpture. 

7. Which artists inspire you ?  

Rosy Lamb: Lucien Freud, Paula Modersohn Becker, Paula Rego, Richard Diebenkorn, Euan Uglow, Frank Auerbach, Howard Hodgkin, Mary Cassatt, Agnes Martin, Odilon Redon, Paul Klee, Kerry James Marshall, Matisse, Van Gogh, Antonio Lopez Garcia, the  Etruscans, Anonymous (she was amazing!), Lucie Rie (ceramicist), William Steig (children’s book author and illustrator), Vincent de Cotis (furniture designer). These are just the artists that popped into my head as I sat down to answer this and I didn’t include some of my artist friends, and my family of artists, who inspire me hugely, maybe more than all of the above. Ten years ago Lucien Freud was hardly someone I referenced. Now, when I see his work in museums, it seems alive on a cellular level. I think about his work a lot, and his intense relationship to developing his own experience of looking over a long and hard working lifetime. 

8. What kind of materials do you use ? 

Rosy Lamb: I use traditional materials, often in untraditional ways. I paint with oils, frequently on sculpted plaster surfaces. I sculpt mostly in clay and make molds so as to finish the sculptures in plaster or bronze. I work with hot wax to create painting-like surfaces in cast bronze. My next furniture experiments will be in sand-cast aluminium. 

9. What would you like to pass on to the next generation ? 

Rosy Lamb: Try not to think too much about what you are doing or why, for whom, what it’s about or what effect it is supposed to create. Let action take you somewhere unplanned, let inaction not seem so frightening. Listen. Follow blindly when you hear a little bird in your ear.  When I forget myself, even for an hour, I am reborn. Most of the time I am lost in my head. I try not to worry about that either.

10. Do you think nowadays Paris is a good place for creativity ? 

Rosy Lamb: The privileged few of us who travel the globe freely are living in a post-geographic world, and artists can live and work happily from almost anywhere. For me, Paris is where I have my studio, my home, and yet I mostly stay in my little bubble. In the summer, I work in my studio in New Hampshire, even farther from it all. 

11. What about your future plans ?

Rosy Lamb: I am preparing a 2019 show of paintings with my Paris gallery, Guido Roméro Pierini, and also continue to work intensely on sculpture, furniture and ceramics.

More about Rosy Lamb

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