January 2015’s The Nor’Easter:45th Annual Juried Members Exhibition brought together a wide assortment of 113 exemplary artworks created by members of the New Britain Museum of American Art. Despite the obvious merits of each artists’ work, one work in particular, Ron Lambert’s Side Defeated, was distinguished by winning the Members Exhibition Juror’s Award.
There is little wonder that Side Defeated caught the juror’s attention. Being a free-standing piece made from a combination of media: wallpaper, plaster, tar, wood and vinyl siding, Side Defeated gives both the eye and the mind much to take in. Walking around Lambert’s piece the audience is first reminded of a house. At the onset, Side Defeated appears to be as if a “chunk” has been ripped from the skeleton of a suburban home, allowing the viewer to see the “innards” of its construction. Indeed, Side Defeated was in some ways truly “ripped” into reality, as it was originally part of another work Lambert had designed for an exhibition at Alfred University. While trying to construct one piece that simply would not “come together,” Lambert deconstructed it, cut away at the materials and the result was Side Defeated, a new and unique artwork.
When interviewed, Ron Lambert emphasized the importance of “home,” or the idea of “home” to the piece. The common-place wallpaper of fruits and vegetation could be found in kitchens across America. The familiarity of Side Defeated highlights the importance of the ideas of “safety” and “comfort” which “home” often invokes. Almost everyone has sat in this kitchen with similar motif, or driven by a house with that same siding. Side Defeated acts as a conduit of memories of one’s first home, to thoughts on their present living arrangements.
However, like every home, Side Defeated bears the marks of time and its environment. Within the piece, a bubble of black tar appears like a malignant tumor, an intruder within the bones of the house. This “illness” not only resides on the insides of the piece, but on the outer layer of vinyl siding where a small hole, constructed as if by an insect, mars its almost perfect, plastic surface. Lambert’s vision of home and the ease and comfortability seems now threatened with decay. The visceral damages to the home act as an aesthetic reflection of the harm and heart-break which are an inevitability in one’s own home, and in one’s own history. Side Defeated’s history is as scarred and “common” as any human viewer’s own, making this piece both relatable, yet unique simultaneously. This commonality is central to Ron Lambert’s piece, and is something he strives to inspire within the viewer.
This theme of the known and the familiar runs through every aspect of Side Defeated. The materials which Lambert chooses to work with can also be labeled as “common.” Anyone who has walked through a Home Depot or watched a television show on HGTV will recognize Side Defeated’s construction-site origins. This is intentional on the part of the artist. When questioned about his materials, Lambert asserted that he rejected the “traditional” mediums of bronze or paint etc. because those “objects,” do not allow him to “think about it as anything but an art piece.” By choosing “commonplace” materials Side Defeated erases the “distance between the piece and the viewer” and allows a personal and unique “dialogue” between the piece and viewer to take place. The static and revered nature of the white marble and acrylic paints of the “traditional” artwork, places the piece on a pedestal which the viewer cannot understand or fully relate to.
When asked if he would categorize Side Defeated into the realm of “non-art,” Lambert replied that he would not, rather that the piece functioned under the “philosophy that everything around us can be art with the right intention.” Like other artists before him, such as Joseph Beuys and Connecticut native Robert Gober, Side Defeated embraces the art latent in all things, and in all people. There is little doubt that the 45th annual Juror’s Award winner achieves Ron Lambert’s ultimate goal as acting, in his words, “as a vehicle for ideas,” provoking both thought and admiration in its viewers.