Sending little “kisses” home with gallery visitors landed Red Deer’s Robin Lambert a $10,000 national emerging artist prize.
Lambert, a Red Deer College visual arts instructor, amassed the most viewer votes out of five finalists in a people’s choice art contest sponsored by the RBC and Gardiner Museum of ceramics in Toronto.
His work, I Should Like to Give You a Kiss, is made up of 3,000 white porcelain thimbles, and was named for a quotation from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan story. When Peter tells Wendy that he doesn’t know what a kiss is, the flustered girl places a thimble in his hand and calls it a kiss.
Lambert ordered the thimbles from England, signed each of them, and lined them up on small shelves in the Gardiner Museum. People who walked by the installation were invited to take a thimble home.
The interactive exhibit “is every curator’s dream,” said Rachel Gotlieb, the chief curator. “It attempts to break down those metaphorical and physical walls that make museums seem so forbidding to the public.”
By inviting viewers to take a piece of art away with them, the installation also encourages people to become art collectors, Gotlieb added. “Lambert’s work very much reflects key issues in current artistic practice,” in that it engages museum visitors and presents an intriguing artistic concept in a post-disciplinary world.
Lambert, who just returned from the award ceremony in Toronto, said “it was extremely overwhelming” to win out of a strong field of contenders. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to win an Oscar, when I was sitting there and my heart was just racing. …”
The B.C. native, who studied art at RDC and the Alberta College of Art and Design before getting a master’s of fine art degree from the University of Regina, strives to include social engagement and interaction with viewers in his practice.
He was, therefore, pleased to hear from gallery volunteers that his exhibit particularly appealed to children.
One young man, who was brought in by his mother, read about the contest and placed his vote. He later took one of Lambert’s thimbles, left the gallery, and apparently reconsidered his choice.
“He came back into the museum and his mom said, ‘He wants to change his vote,’ ” said Lambert, with a chuckle. “I was told there was some mystery and maybe a little bit of magic to the piece.”
The RDC community and other Alberta artists rallied around Lambert and participated in the online voting. The local artist, who grew up in High Prairie, said he’s very grateful for their support.
Lambert is still considering how to make use of the prize money, noting some will be used to repay his student loan, while some will go towards a future art project he’s planning.