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Portrait of 

Social Spaces


Nancy Lamb’s “social spaces” consists primarily of the glitzy, glamorous, and noisy world of the party scene. Through striking compositional cropping, Lamb creates an immediacy and slice-of-life quality that invites us to move in and among the well-dressed, smiling revelers. The artist, who has long produced portraits, bases her festive images on close-eyed observation as well as on photographs. Immersed in the crowd with her small 35-mm. automatic camera, Lamb captures the ebb and flow of the party at close range, producing images that convey the upbeat, vertiginous crush of the constantly-in-motion party.


The party as seen by Lamb is a visual encyclopedia of facial expression, body language, and gestures. In some of the paintings, the subject is the ubiquitous, fixed party smile, which reveals as much as it masks. In other compositions everything we need to know about a person or situation is conveyed through the mere gesture of a hand. For all the compositions’ sense of realism-obvious in the rendering of forms and in capturing the party’s inherent randomness-Lamb’s art is also insistently abstract. This occurs because of the dynamic pictorial cropping, the frequent use of an elongated format, the intimate closeness of figures, the eye-popping intensity of highlighted areas, and the dizzy play of competing patterns.


Lively party scenes dominate the artist’s “social spaces”, but they are by no means her only subjects. Her art displays a range and depth of images. Yet no matter what captures her artistic attention and imagination, Nancy Lamb’s compositions always intrigue and fascinate because of their remarkably expressive and provocative angles of vision.


Mark Thistlethwaite

Kay & Velma Kimbell Chair of Art History

Texas Christian University


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