Julie Lambert’s first intimation that she might be destined for a career in art was noticing how her kindergarten classmates weren’t coloring within the lines like she did. Despite that young nod to convention, Lambert’s art actually digs deep down past any surface aesthetic.
“A lot of my work has to do with aspects of feminist ideals. After all, I am a woman and a mother,” says Lambert. “But my work also identifies with the human condition. We are all flawed. We are all broken.”
Her recent series of paintings is a case in point. A runner with several marathons to her credit, Lambert trains on a regular route that is often lined by road kill. It struck her one day that there was a connection between the risks taken by these ill-fated animals who dare to cross the road and hers as a woman who dares to be out running alone. She started photographing the remains before rendering the images in oil on canvas. The painting that she is currently working on (shown behind her in the photo) is titled “Turtle: We Were Warned.”
“Encountering road kill on the pavement versus in a car is totally different, the image stays with you much longer,” says Lambert, who might have become a social worker if not an artist and teacher. “I make decisions about my safety that male runners, like my husband, don’t have to make. The dead animals act as a warning that running as a female is ‘dangerous,’ while serving as a larger metaphor for life as a female in academia, parenthood and all stations of life.”
Lambert, a native of Cleveland, joined Macomb’s art faculty in 2018 after teaching at several other institutions, including Henry Ford College, College for Creative Studies, and University of Michigan- both Dearborn and Ann Arbor. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Toledo and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she met her husband, David Lambert. A native of Kentucky, David is the media manager in the art department at Oakland University, where he also teaches new media and digital photography.
“One of the Cranbrook mergers,” muses Lambert, indicating how common marriage is between students who meet in the tightknit artists’ community. At Cranbrook, which she likened to a “monastery,” Lambert majored in print media and minored in ceramics, but is equally comfortable with other mediums, including oil painting. Her and David’s oldest son, however, prefers to draw.
Dennison, nine, is a competitive swimmer with a knack for rendering the lake freighters he has seen on vacation with his mom and dad. His younger brother Waleis, six, is a budding scientist who loves to tinker with his hands. The family’s home is in Berkley, where Lambert “loves to cook.” Her art work, however, is never far from hand and is currently featured in two exhibits: Gilda Snowden Memorial Exhibition at the Scarab Club in Detroit and the Women’s Work international show at the Old Courthouse Art Center in Woodstock, Illinois. She also participated in the recent faculty exhibit in the reopened Art Gallery on Center Campus.
“As a whole, I have felt the most supported here at Macomb, which is directly attributable to working with Todd Mitchell (Macomb art professor),” says Lambert. “We share a similar vision for the department.”
That vision includes development of an Associate of Fine Arts Degree and securing accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Among Macomb’s art department’s points of pride, notes Lambert, is its foundry for bronze and aluminum casting, only one other community college in the country has one, and its large and well-equipped studios, where Lambert is thrilled to spend time with her students.
“Our art students are so capable, intelligent and hard-working,” says Lambert. “I love forming relationships with them and seeing them develop over time.”