Emily Noelle Lambert, an artist who shows with Lower East Side gallery Lu Magnus, got more than she bargained for with her participation in the inaugural Untitled art fair, which took place in a tent on the sands of Miami Beach last week.
Pittsburgh-born, New York-based Lambert, who is 37, had about 48 hours to improvise materials for a sculpture. She makes her large, polychrome assemblage sculptures from found objects, mostly pieces of wood, that usually take years to gather.
"The materials come from places as various as Pittsburgh, where she's from, to San Miguel de Allende, where her father has a home," according to Lauren Scott Miller, Lu Magnus cofounder, who spoke to A.i.A. at the fair.
"When she did her show at our gallery," Miller said, "she also incorporated stuff from construction sites on the Lower East Side." Miller, formerly of Luhring Augustine, founded the gallery in 2010 with former Stellan Holm Gallery director Amelia Abdullahsani.
After seeing Lambert's works in that show earlier this year, Untitled's organizer, curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud, invited Lambert to contribute a special project for the fair.
"We arrived in Miami Saturday morning," Miller told A.i.A., "and when the trucks came in to deliver the works, we found that the core piece of Emily's sculpture somehow did not make it on the truck."
Artists and others in Miami were quick to offer help.
"As soon as we put the word out, we had many local artists offer their homes and studios to us," said Miller. "A city of strangers completely opened up. It was humbling."
For the first time, the artist resorted to buying some of her materials at Home Depot.
"Lambert has never, ever bought a piece of wood," Miller stressed. "To have to buy it and give it character by carving and painting was new for her. And she's never relied on outside help before."
Lambert created the bulk of the piece in her hotel room Saturday night. The next morning, she asked Miller to go to the waterfront to look for stray scraps of rope and interesting pieces of wood.
"When I got there, along with a Spanish-speaking friend, there were a lot of fishermen and stone crabbers around," said Miller. "It was not, I later learned, the safest part of town. But one Cuban guy, nicknamed Chiama, offered to show us around. We waded in the water and climbed over crates for hours, all over the marina, finding buoys and rope and an anchor and some netting, all of which she used."
"By the time we left," Miller said, "the fishermen told me I had a second home if I ever returned. They sent us home with a fish. They wouldn't take money, even after spending hours working with us."
The artist hopes to go back next year and collaborate with Chiama and the local fishermen who assisted last week.
In honor of the unexpected assistance from strangers, Lambert named the sculpture Widening Circles (Miami Overture), in reference to a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
Photo: Emily Noelle Lambert, Widening Circles (Miami Overture), 2012, Mixed mediums, Dimensions variable.
Site-specific installation for UNTITLED. Photo Adam Reich