By Michelle Trauring
Laurie Lambrecht is a self-declared “outdoors person” and always has been, starting in her youth and continuing through her artistry and daily muse — but never before in her artistic installations.
The Parrish Road Show has changed that, and for the first time in her career, Lambrecht is finally letting her art meet the nature that has always inspired her work.
Starting Saturday, October 5, Lambrecht’s newest bodies of work will live among the gardens that birthed them — large-scale fiber prints of tree bark; hand-knitted covers for stones, rocks, and trees; and weavings comprised of cut-up fabric prints from photographs of The Madoo Conservancy, the location of her site-specific installation “Laurie Lambrecht: Limn to Limb” which is sponsored by the Parrish Art Museum.
“I think this project really, for me, feels like coming home in a metaphorical way. It’s a lot of things that mean a lot to me,” Lambrecht explained. “Working with my hands and fiber, working with a camera and photographing, and working so much with color but, at the same time, working with the outdoors and the abundance and fragility and all those great things that the cycle of the growing season provides.”
The Bridgehampton native grew into her parallel art forms as a child. Her mother first taught her to crochet, followed by knitting lessons from her neighbor across the street. Her father bought her a sewing machine when she was 13 — “I had it until a year ago when it was no longer repairable,” she said — and around the same time, she picked up her first camera.
And, all the while, she was outdoors every chance she got, climbing in the trees or roaming through the woods.
“Wandering off on my bicycle since I was a really young age was my exploration into freedom,” Lambrecht said. “Growing up out here was so different. Kids could go off and come home for dinner. I used to just journey around. My bike ride, very often, took me through Sagaponack and the open flat fields. The expanse of the open horizon was very important to me.”
It was also important to painter Robert Dash, who bought a 1.91-acre swath of tractor turnaround land in Sagaponack in 1967 and re-imagined it as a living work of art, which he named “Madoo.” The Madoo Conservancy, which celebrated its 25th anniversary as a public garden this year, now lives on as a rambling, ever-changing, horticultural tribute to its late founder, who was also a writer and artist.
“As a student, I knew Bob Dash. I didn’t know him well, but I knew him and I knew his work really early in my years of having eye-opening experiences regarding art and how it affects our world and our ways of seeing the world,” Lambrecht said. “His landscape paintings lodged themselves in my visual memory at an early age. As far as the garden is concerned, I remember in mid-summer, walking into the garden and thinking, ‘This garden is so perfect, how can anyone think about adding anything, or contributing?’”
During her many visits to the hidden oasis, Lambrecht came away from Madoo with a new respect for landscape designers and horticulturalists, and the Zen inherent in their own art — the realization that color and harmony and life are impermanent — and the time they must endure to see their vision manifest, or not.
It is with this mindset that Lambrecht, as a photographer, approached the garden in a different manner than she ever had before. Instead of focusing on structure, she gravitated toward color, how it mingled with the surrounding vegetation and, of course, the trees.
“I think that the color at the garden, especially mid-summer, was so outstanding and I suddenly got that feeling about how quickly it all changes — sometimes from day to day, because of weather or the length that a plant exists,” she said. “I was thinking about how the colors are so fleeting, and that’s what, I suddenly realized, I wanted to focus on: looking at the color in terms of memory, of how the colors integrate with each other over a broad space of place — a physical space — but also how colors remain in our minds, our memory space, over time.”
Back at her home-studio in Bridgehampton, Lambrecht printed her photographs on large pieces of cotton and linen, and then cut them into strips to, ultimately, weave back together.
“I feel like, in a sense, I was making my own pigment or my own paint, and that I was having something that was really particular to Madoo and also to my way of seeing the color,” she said. “For me, it’s like placing the colors of the garden in different places, but I’m able to use the colors that came from the garden and hold onto them for another season.”
One week before the “Limn to Limb” opening, the summer hues in the garden were long gone. Crisp mornings and hints of red, yellow and orange in the changing leaves ushered in a new season of color — as she remembers the old, and installs it at Madoo.
“When I asked if I could use the space at Madoo, I was thinking of the gallery space inside, and a couple weeks later, I was told, ‘We’re using the inside for something else during that time period, so you have to work outside,’ and I went, ‘Huh!’”
She reenacted her once nervous laugh.
“Very quickly, I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is the great challenge that I’ve always really hoped for,’” she said. “It’s pushed me to expand what I’m familiar with and see lots of other possibilities. Now I’m just totally thinking about, ‘Gee, what happens after this? What happens after the Road Show? What’s my next thing?’ because I don’t know anymore. And it’s great! It’s really spectacular.”
“Laurie Lambrecht: Limn to Limb,” a site-specific installation at The Madoo Conservancy, 618 Sagg Main Street, Sagaponack, opens with a reception on Saturday, October 5, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the garden, as part of the Parrish Road Show series. The exhibition will remain on view through November 3. For more information, contact the Parrish Art Museum at 631-283-2118 or parrishart.org.