Since the beginning of this year, Claire Lambe has embarked on an ambitious project: painting portraits in the Woodstock Library for anyone who signs up. Every Friday, she paints her subject in acrylic on a 12-by-12-inch canvas in a single three-hour sitting. Conceived as a way of breaking out of the tradition of commissioning portraits and being able to choose subjects on a more random basis, Lambe’s library project, which just concluded last week, has produced 35 portraits. In seeking to “democratize the portrait form,” Lambe said that the library has been the perfect location. “People who go there are from all walks of life,” she said. Initially she started each session from scratch with a blank canvas, but later on refined her method to sketch out the person’s likeness first from a photograph, so she could she devote the entire time before the model to painting.
“The subjects had very little say in how the painting was going to be finished” – unlike the give and take of doing a commission. When she was done, she said, “Most people were pretty happy with their painting. I always say to them, do they recognize themselves? And nobody said ‘No.’” While Lambe said that she is considering continuing the project (more people have signed up than got portraits) in her studio, in the meantime she is showing a sampling of the portraits in Woodstock.
From October 14 through November 10, Oriole 9 restaurant will host an exhibition of Lambe’s library portraits, along with landscapes by Lynne Friedman. The exhibition is curated by Lenny Kislin, and an artists’ reception will be held on October 24 from 5 to 7 p.m.
A native of Ireland, Lambe graduated with a BFA from the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, and later earned an MFA from Brooklyn College. She has participated in numerous Hudson Valley exhibitions, including “Hudson Valley Artists 2012” at SUNY-New Paltz and “Peace & Justice” at the Muroff-Kotler Gallery at SUNY-Ulster. She got over any potential nervousness related to patrons and employees in the library coming over to watch her work years ago, when as an art student she would spend summers in Greece painting portraits on the street.
In August, Lambe also showed a portion of her library portraits in her hometown in Ireland. They were accompanied by portraits by Lambe of the local residents, based on photographs that she was e-mailed or received by mail. Any difference between painting Woodstockers and the Irish? “Irish people are more conservative-looking. A lot more of them wear glasses,” she said, acknowledging that because of the distance and her reliance on photographs for the Irish portraiture project, she was unable to meet and paint “street people and local characters.”
Lambe said that she thinks of the collective group of portraits as “one body of work” and would like to keep them together. “Eventually I may offer the paintings to the subjects, but I’d also like to donate them to the Historical Society…I don’t want them to end up in boxes.”
Lynne Friedman will be showing her large landscapes of the Shawangunks and local farm country as well as from New Mexico. Originally from Florida, Friedman moved to the area from New York City a decade ago, and first starting painting landscapes after visiting Colorado 20 years ago. She received her BA and MFA from Queens College, an EdD from Columbia University Teachers’ College and studied at the New York Studio School.
Rather than literal transcriptions, her Fauvist paintings start with plein air sessions, but then evolve in the studio. “I’m basically using the environment as a springboard for a visual idea,” she said. “I may pick up colors, shapes and a compositional idea outdoors. The work is transformed in the studio to something more intuitive and internal. It’s about what the landscape evokes in me.” She added that “you don’t work by inspiration, but by working” and discovering how “one idea relates to another.”
Friedman’s work was recently chosen by the US Department of State’s Art to Art in Embassies Program for the US Embassies in Djibouti, East Africa and Colombo, Sri Lanka. She has participated in exhibitions at the Booth Western Art Museum and the James McNeil Whistler Museum, and also shows at the Wired Gallery and at galleries in the city.
Portraits by Claire Lambe/landscapes by Lynne Friedman, October 14-November 10, reception, Saturday, October 24, 5-7 p.m., Oriole 9, 17 Tinker Street, Woodstock.