The artist takes master crafting to new heights
“I’m not saying that my work is divine,” says Kelly Lamb, sipping coffee from a geodesic ceramic teacup of her own design in her East Los Angeles studio. “But it is about touching the divine.”
Known first for her range of architectural objects, birdhouses and terrariums anchored in Buckminster Fuller’s brand of sacred geometry, the designer and artist has always had an affinity for the tactile. But these days it comes paired with a renewed emphasis on the visceral: “I like my work to be interactive; I want people to feel it,” she says.
Against the white walls of her studio—a former plumbing supply warehouse that has been remodeled with a kitted-out kitchen and a pair of grand doors sourced from an architectural salvage yard—surreal artworks abound.
Up front: A fountain that is the basis for a commission for The Contemporary Austin’s sculpture park, Laguna Gloria, comprising a pillar of Edenic lemons balanced on a female hand. Like most artists, Lamb prefers to keep the meaning of a piece open-ended, but will concede certain themes: “the interaction between humans and nature; the way we manipulate nature; and the infinite flow of the two of them,” she offers.
She got her start opening a gallery in New York after graduating from Vermont liberal arts school Bennington College, then moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to grow her own art practice. “I was able to take advantage of the space here and really dive in,” she says. For five years she resided on the historic Paramour Estate at the invitation of her friend and mentor, Dana Hollister, before buying a house in Los Feliz and setting up shop in her own space a year and a half ago.
Lamb’s most recent prototype, a supersized cutout of her pointer and middle fingers, positioned in a “V for victory” and intended to provocatively reference other female body parts, leans against the back wall. It’s still early in the creative process, but she hopes to reproduce it in three-dimensional bronze as part of an outdoor public art project, and is working on getting funding. “It’s a female hand taking action,” she says. “[The viewer is] being confronted with flesh and bone—and claws. It’s from the heart.” (She’s also working on a collaboration with renowned stained glass masters Judson Studios.)
Out back hums a world of behind-the-scenes production: from the raku kilns where Lamb fired the crystal- and gem-shaped pieces that comprise Semi Precious (a “performative” piece whose genesis entailed burning items like love letters and hair with glazed clay), to the tools used to weld her “Clusterfuck” series, suspended spinning jumbles of mirrored stainless steel that evoke a state of stuckness—be it on a macropolitical level or a micro-personal one.
“I’m just trying to make sense of things, and to make a difference,” she says. “In high school I was that girl who hung out in the art room—it’s in my DNA to explore.” kellylamb.net.
Written by MELISSA GOLDSTEIN.
Photography by SAM FROST.