Retrospective Art Show

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Welcome to my life in art. 

This exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of my work from 1972 to the present.   Each wall represents a different stage in a varied career and the different methods I used to transpose my inner thoughts into visual images. Two things that are reflected throughout my work are my interest in technique and my responsiveness to the physical world that I inhabit.

Unfortunately, my first love, sculpture, which I began to pursue as an art student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, is not included in this exhibition. I might still be sculpting if rheumatoid arthritis hadn't left my hands too weak to withstand the steady grind of carving. However, as a silver lining, illness caused me to turn toward the etching plate.  Etching was extremely gratifying because it was receptive to the minutest detail, yet spared me the pain of wielding a mallet and chisel and the hard labor of carving or casting with clay.

In the early 70’s I used collage and monoprint to create a series of etchings, and in the mid-80’s transferred photographs of my drawings of nudes and natural objects to the etching plate. Combining the photo process with printmaking and manipulating both the plate and the film enabled me to reflect both positive and negative images of my drawings.  This is apparent in the nudes and sea shells of varied shades and colors exhibited here. 

In the late 1970s a heavy blizzard blanketed New York with more than a foot of snow.  After it melted I took a walk in my neighborhood on Amsterdam Avenue and collected beer cans and other metal objects flattened by traffic. They had been pressed into shapes which reminded me of Eskimo sculpture.  I colored them with etching ink, composed them into family groups and used them to print “Amsterdam Ave Families.” My neighborhood is also referenced in "Amsterdam Ave Walls,” a series of etchings and collages based on a series of photographs I had taken over time of an abandoned building on 104th Street. 

On my first visit to Samoa in 1987 I learned about Tapa design, the indigenous patterns of Polynesia.  Many Dalton students may remember how excited I was to regale them with Samoan myths and legends and to share with them textiles and objects to familiarize them with Polynesian culture.  At this time, I created a series of linoleum-cuts about the origin of the coconut, based upon the legend of Sina and the Eel, which hang on the second floor at the end of the hall on the left.

In Samoa I first began working with watercolors.  I did a series of paintings of Rainmaker Mountain which I could see across Pago Pago Bay from my studio. I painted the lush tropical landscape, exquisite flowers, and the patterned sarongs (lava lavas) worn by my local friends and neighbors. To this day, wherever I travel, I bring along my water colors to record the wonders that I see.

So, dear friends, as you walk through these galleries and look at my work, it is important for you to know that although my travels have been extensive and stimulating, the beloved group of students I have encountered during my forty years of teaching at Dalton has been as great an influence on my work as the places I have visited.

Sheila Lamb

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