The slightly freckled arm of Nancy Lamb, holding a camera on high, is one of the most recognizable features of the Fort Worth party circuit. She occupies the space between chandeliers and coiffures, snapping photographs of party-crushed huddles and then later paints the results. The tight cropping of bodies makes the public moments look like private tête-à-têtes, where proximity and hand gestures — more than facial expressions — tell the story.
“A hand has an expression just like a face does. I really like the mystery of not showing people’s faces,” she says.
The overhead point of view and party setting is so tellingly hers that it has been verbed. A friend sent her the evidence, found graffitied on a fence in Denton — “Don’t Nancy Lamb me.”
There are guests who feel the same way. They dodge her camera with the fervor of someone in the witness protection program, but there are others who will plant themselves under her lens, obviously desperate to be painted.
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What they don’t seem to realize is, she’s just as enamored of the glitter as she is the guests. Sparkly fabrics and jewelry will attract her inner magpie. And if the dinner ring should be on a craggy, veined and wrinkled hand, even better. Lamb likes her subjects with some ravages of time. Only she wouldn’t call them ravages. Wouldn’t it be great, she says, if people went to surgeons to get wrinkles?
While guests might think she is there to catch them in a vulnerable grimace or a comb-over fail, she is quick to deny any ulterior motives and is quite adamant that she finds her subjects beautiful.
“I would love for people to know how great they look. It’s not just because I want to paint them. These people are beautiful; they don’t think they are, but they are,” she says.
A retrospective of Lamb’s paintings, and the party photos that they inspire, are the headlining event at Spring Gallery Night at Artspace111 on March 28.
“My show doesn’t go back far enough,” she says. “I’d like to document the last 20 to 40 years, but I’m only using the digitized photos, so it’s only the last decade. Well, I take that back — there will be some pieces from 20 years ago,” she says.
“I think people will come because they want to see who is represented.”
The Gang’s All Here
March 28-May 2
111 Hampton St.