Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Every Image is Intentional...An interview with artist Karla Lamb by: Michael B. George

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photo credit: Joshua Tarquinio

I'm very excited to bring you a very special interview to you all today.  I caught up with a very talented artist and writer Karla Lamb.  You're going to hear from a woman who balances work, family, art, and life-- who knows, you might learn a thing or two about what it means to be an emerging artist in Pittsburgh and what it took to get there.  So without any further ado...enjoy!

  What were your earliest memories of art growing up? 

One of the earliest memories of art I have is an oil painting of snakes, cacti, and the Aztec god of water Tlaloc that my mom was working on for several years. She never finished the painting but I liked it that way. She was a tour guide for the Zócalo in Mexico City where the main temple ruins are, and would tell me the Aztec legends as bed time stories.

  Did you grow up in a family that were into the arts? 

Yes, both my parents are literary and creative. They both wrote poetry and fiction in their early years. And now my dad is into home brewing, baking, and carpentry. My mom has a great eye for interior decorating, jewelry making, and fashion. My siblings are both into performance arts, hip-hop, and acting.

  Were you inspired by any teachers or classmates in any time during school? 

Definitely. I usually associated with the “art” kids in high school and we would hang out in the art hall (sounds cliché but its true). We took pride in being marginalized and didn't mind being called punks, or freaks. Looking back, we were all producing great art back then too. Not to boast, but my crew was pretty talented. A lot of us ended up in the creative field as adults. I remember I was working on this 3D collage of Adam & Eve and someone stole it right out of the art room during lunch. It was pretty messed up. I was also in the art honor society, and all the advanced art classes. I can’t answer this question without mentioning Mr. Slachta. I’m pretty sure he still teaches visual art and graphic design. He was a great teacher because he was always so encouraging and supportive in all our endeavors. He gave great feedback and let us listen to cool music during class.
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photo credit: Joshua Tarquinio

  What did you find yourself interested in first, writing or painting? 

I can’t really say one or the other definitively. I've always done both. It wasn't until I was really coming into my own that I realized that words existed that described what I was doing. Like, I was always sketching and journaling but didn't know that that was what it was called—if that makes sense. I always personalized every book, article of clothing, and bedroom wall I ever had. I knew early on that I needed to surround myself with images that inspired me. My earliest collages were of my own drawings all over my bedroom and I have about five years’ worth of journals where I wrote down everything because I was afraid of forgetting it.

  When did you decide you really wanted to pursue art as more than just a hobby or recreation? 

I think it is every artist’s dream to make it on some level. What I aspire to do is just to share my work, to inspire, to provoke, to have people see themselves in it, for it to resonate and be memorable. I want it to be able to speak for itself. All I ask is for it not to end up in storage or in someone’s basement. Art is more of a passion really, it’s an addiction and the profound love to create and communicate emotional expression with others never fades no matter the circumstance. Honestly, I've always had some romantic notion of decorating my place with my own work, just for me. I get lost in my own palette, the images, shapes, and colors hypnotize me. That’s how I know it’s good. If it gets me to stare and get lost in it, to be enamored and subsumed. Art is a compulsion, not a choice. It’s called a discipline because that’s what it takes to be prolific. You have to earn that identity, it takes effort, energy, and commitment. But to answer the question, the desire to get my work out into the world has always been there unconsciously, incubating, scheming, and getting ready to make big moves. What better time than now?

  What have you learned while giving yourself to the process of writing and painting?

I've learned I am a very messy artists, but it is that organized chaos that helps my process to bloom. I believe a collage should be spontaneous and carefree, so I don’t make sketches or thumbnails. The layers evolve organically because I am impatient and glob on paint instead of waiting for it to dry. It was interesting to learn that I am most creative in the evening and in the middle of the night. I've learned to go deep into the dark places of my psyche and churn the turmoil into something beautiful. It is very gratifying to see a finished work after killing my darlings, going in an opposite direction, and doubting where the piece is actually going. I tend to apply the same creative process to both mediums actually. I've learned that a piece is never fished, just abandoned. When I re-purpose my old paintings and recycle lines from unfinished poems, I see how I am a different person with a different story from one day to the next. Lots of editing but no over thinking-- that is key.
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photo credit: Joshua Tarquinio

Who are the artists and writers that inspire you?

I’ve been following the work of Larry Carlson lately. His psychedelic prints and surreal collage inspire me to not only fill the canvas but to think outside of it. I recently got to see an unfinished Egon Schiele piece at the Philadelphia Museum of Art called Danaë, it is stunning. I've always like his style, along with Gustav Klimt’s sensual portraiture and color layering. I use contrasting patterns, swirls and gold-leaf because of them. I've also always loved Matisse’s composition and line work, “Large Red Interior” is my favorite of his. Of course, Frida Kahlo and Jose Guadalupe Posada are huge influences from my Mexican heritage. A lot of the motifs I use allude to their work. As for writers it is a long list stretching across several genres. The writers I will always go back to include Sandra Cisneros, Anais Nin, Allan Ginsberg, Don DeLillo, Mary Karr, and Milan Kundera just to name a few.

 Please tell us what is up next for Karla Lamb? 

So, I’m really excited about being featured in the next RAW artist showcase on June 26. It will be the biggest exhibit I've participated in so far and I am extremely psyched. I got scouted by the regional directors when they saw some of my work in the first ever DOUBLE MIRЯOR Exhibit back in May. I produced about six completely new collages in a month’s time for this show, which is a bit of a record for me. I got amazing prints made of the originals for people to buy at the event, and I only have a handful of tickets left to sell. These are all milestones in my artistic career so I’m feeling pretty elated and humbled just to know that I have so much support. I also have another multi-artist show coming up called Deutschtown Music Festival on July 12th that I just got invited to be in. And there is always my ongoing project DOUBLE MIRЯOR, which is an exhibit I help curate on the South Side every other month. The next one is actually this Friday night so you should definitely come out. All of these shows have such an amazing amount of talent in them that it is overwhelming to realize that I am part of such a cool effort to keep art alive in this city.
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  What are your current goals?       

My first goal is to sell as much art as possible at these exhibits I have coming up. Next, I want to utilize the momentum I have going and keep on producing. I would like to get more involved with other galleries around town and network with different artists because in the art world it is definitely a matter of who you know-- and I want to be on both sides of that coin. I mean, I like organizing events, marketing, coordinating and persuading people and I think my passion and skill set can get me as far as I want to go either behind the scenes or on the canvas.  I’m not afraid to stir up some ripples in the universe that’s for sure.

  Is there anyone you would like to recognize and thank for their input and support?

First and foremost, my partner in crime Dave. He inspires me to do my best, and to be a boss in everything I do. He gives me thoughtful and objective feedback on both art and writing, his critiques are enlightening, and I appreciate his perspective. He’s a mural collagist and an excellent writer. Our styles are completely different, but we encourage each other, share ideas, concepts, and images. The inspiration is reciprocal, and we joke about one-upping each other but the friendly competition just drives us to be better. We want to see each other succeed. I get a lot of my images from his vintage Playboys and he’s stolen of a few of my poetry lines, so it works out.  My family and friends have always been there for me in every way, and I wouldn't be where I am without them having my back. I've been meeting a lot of new people too, now that I’m more involved in the art scene. The creativity in this city is palpable and everyone seems to be working together, so that’s always reassuring. I would also like to give a shout out to my old roommate Rhys who introduced me to decoupage. That’s how this whole obsession with collage started, she probably has no idea.  Lastly, thank you Michael George for taking the time to interview me and letting me share a bit of my story. This is just the beginning.

  Where can we follow your progress, updates and work? 

I hate to hype up social media, but it’s such a great tool to reach a wide range of people. I usually blow up everyone’s feed on Instagram and post pictures of my creative process, sketches, and finished work.  My RAW artist profile features a lot of my new collages and there will be a video interview uploaded as soon as it’s done being edited. Obviously FB and Google+ for upcoming features and events, and I’m working on a digital portfolio. I’m also in the process of making a zine of my collage journal. I tend to be pretty shameless when it comes to self-promotion so if you already follow me you’ll probably hear about it.


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photo credit: Joshua Tarquinio  photo karla1_zps608f3d86.jpg

Thank you so much Karla I'm so excited to see the upcoming shows and wish you all the best in the world! :-)
And thank you to Joshua Tarquinio for great photography please check him out at:
Tarquinio Media LLC
Tarquinio Photo
Tarquinio Photo Facebook Page

Glad you all enjoyed, M.G.


  1. Go, Karla! So great to read this blog, and we wish you all the best in these new shows and the ones you'll be in in the future.

  2. Thanks for the support Ann, it's all about the talent all these individuals are able to share and build upon that is making this a very special process.

  3. For all your creative photography needs go to TARQUINIO PHOTO based out of Pittsburgh. They get all the photo credit for this article