Decorative Artist Matt Lambert Explores Queer Body Politics
To fully consume the queer concepts in Matt Lambert’s body of work, use your primordial senses: touch, sight, sex. The 28-year-old decorative artist has a BFA in printmaking and ceramics (summa cum laude in metals) from Wayne State University, and they has an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where they studied metal and leather smithing, fiber and sculpture. Expertly wielding those disciplines, Lambert adorns the naked male form with protection and vulnerability.
Lambert’s pieces include silky floor-length fiber masks beaded with raw metal, mirrored breastplates, intricately tied leather headdresses with animal bone, fur and feathers necklaces — it all plays between primitive and polished to reimagine masculinity. Or, to simply blow the binary away entirely, they explains.
“When I talk about queer body politics, it is about making space for the body to explore and not be categorized,” Lambert says. “This has now lead into a photographic and performative element in my work. It is giving a body — anybody, everybody — time, space and validation to explore and experiment.”
This month, Lambert will travel to Oslo, Norway, for six weeks to participate in a gender and body adornment residency, a joint effort between Praxis Oslo, Norwegian Crafts, and writer, curator and maker Benjamin Lignel who is working on a gender project with writer and curator Namita Wiggers. The project started as a book on gender, but talks have since evolved into a potential open source platform. “They realized a book doesn’t reflect gender, which is fluid,” Lambert says. In art, fluidity is freedom, they says, “to express things and share ideas and thoughts without the pressure for approval.”
Growing up, Lambert split his time between the city of Detroit and the forests of Ontario. They mostly keeps a low profile in the local art scene, and they creates in a cozy studio space in Detroit’s Boston–Edison District. But internationally, Lambert’s been busy building a commentary around gender.
In 2016, Lambert became the first international artist trained in contemporary jewelry to be invited as an international resident for 2016-2017 with Iaspis the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s international programme for visual artists and designers. Lambert’s work has been collected internationally and shown at venues such as ArkDes, the Swedish center for architecture and design, the Craft Council of British Columbia Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, and the Handwerkskammer für München und Oberbayern in Munich, Germany. Lambert is represented by Platina Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden and Gallery Loupe in Montclair New Jersey. They has two upcoming solo exhibitions – one through May at the Sculpture Center of Ohio and another in the spring of 2019 at the Benaki Museum in Athens Greece as the featured artist of Athens Jewelry Week. Lambert will also present CAKE with collaborator Edward Cabral at the Swedish Fine Art Biannual in Gothenburg Sweden in 2019.
“I pull a lot of my style from the decorative arts,” they says. “I also trained as a leather worker in a coach trimming shop that did car interiors by hand. This eventually lead to making fetish gear which some of that shows up in my work just from the memory that exists in my hands still from making that work.”
From their family, Lambert was cut from a creative cloth. “I would say there is a thread of creativity in my family. A lot of needle work with textiles as well as many other things,” they says. “My mother’s cousin was also a metalsmith who went to Wayne State and went on to work for Tiffany & Co. When I graduated high school and formally declared metalsmithing a degree at Wayne State, I inherited her studio which was a tremendous help for my own studio.”
Lambert originally set out to be a psychologist. They received his bachelor’s in psychology from WSU (cum laude with departmental honors) and started working in a rape and trauma lab. They took up art after finding the work mentally draining.
“It became very frustrating. I did not find this kind of work to be fulfilling and was taking a wear on me mentally,” they says, but Lambert hasn’t given up on the mind completely. By blending the binaries in their work, they hopes to provoke a dialogue around gender that empowers people to live in their truth. From their own journey with gender, Lambert has learned to accept that the truth can change.
“There is that tired saying ‘marching to the beat of a different drum.’ Well I would like to think I’ve learned enough to make enough drums at this point,” they says. “I hope in general people can take away from my work that it’s OK to be different. Whether that’s loud or quiet.”
At this point in the evolving discussion on gender and sexuality, uniformity “would just be weird,” they adds.
Visit mattlambertstudio.com for more information.