Nancy Lamb

photography by Alex Lepe

She catches your eye immediately with bright red hair, kindly blue eyes, bohemian attire and an energetic personality that demands exclamation marks—used liberally in all of her written communications. “I get excited! I can’t help it!” she says. Nancy Lamb, internationally lauded Fort Worth native sculptor and painter, recalls riding in the back seat of her parents’ car as a young girl in the mid-1960s, looking out the window and musing to herself that art was all around her.

“I’d see things—maybe just some old dirty cage or wooden box on the side of the road—and try to figure out something to do with them to make art,” Lamb says. 

She was a casual observer of ‘what could be’ then and is to this day.

Formally trained at Texas Christian University and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (FWMSH), where she taught ceramics from 1970 to 2004, Lamb’s 30-plus-year career as a prolific artist has led to exhibitions at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Dallas Museum of Art, and Kidder Smith Gallery in Boston, to name only a few. Major works include murals for the FWMSH and designs for two 200-foot terrazzo floors at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Her work is amply represented in high-profile private and corporate collections.

On March 28, The Gang’s All Here, a show chronicling the last three decades of Lamb’s career, opened at Artspace 111 for Spring Gallery Night. The extraordinary exhibit, including many of her massive collection of paintings and archival inkjet prints, will remain on display until May 9.

Lamb is well known as an artist of social anthology. Equipped with her digital camera, she attends Fort Worth’s most important social events, such as the Opera Ball and the Zoo Ball, in addition to friends’ parties. She shoots her subjects from a casual observer’s bird’s-eye view. Sometimes, the party-goers are aware of her presence, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the photos are just a hand holding a wine glass or a piece of jewelry on an arm. These are not meant to be portraits. Lamb then returns home and goes through the massive amount of photography and decides which images she’ll paint.

“I always tell people who might be irritated with me taking all the photographs that it’s not just that I’m taking them to do paintings or to have inspiration,” Lamb says. “I’m trying to document my life at this particular time on this planet in this town with all these amazing people. I have pictures of Van Cliburn, as an example, and I will never get that chance again. It’s also the same way with people who aren’t famous or well known. It’s nice to have an image of you somewhere.” 

Of the hundreds of creations in her career, you will not see one in Lamb’s colorful, eclectic-styled home in Westworth Village. Like many professional artists, she has no emotional attachment to her work. “The sooner I can get it out of here, the sooner I can do something else,” she says. “I’ve always been that way. I love them while I’m doing them, but I never wanted to keep any of them around. It’s like birthing children and letting them go out into the world.”

Lamb lost her husband, Bob Powell, on May 3, 2013. Naturally, his death has affected her work. He was her inspiration. And she loved being married to him. 

“I have to be happy to produce,” Lamb says. “You can always tell what’s going on with me. I’m trying to remain positive about it, but I can’t help but think, ‘How can I not have what I want? How can I not call this person up on the phone? How can I not have this person to look at?’ Yeah, you don’t get a choice.”

Lamb says that many people want her to teach them how to paint. “I don’t think you can teach somebody how to paint,” she says. “I would like for people to find their own way and find their own vision. It’s like you can’t teach somebody how to be happy.”

Lamb says she would like to be remembered as a really good painter, an artist who tried a lot of different things. “And that I keep looking and searching for something else to have fun with.”