This is where Olympia steps in.
Out of the blue this past spring, I learned that Olympia was curating a huge group show called, "Escape from New York" in of all places, Paterson, New Jersey. At first, I was like huh? I don’t get it, what’s going on here? And as I started to follow this herculean effort, I realized that Olympia was putting together a Biennial style art happening in this beloved rust belt town.
The result? A beautifully curated exhibition inside huge empty floors of and old warehouse facility. Talk about breathing new life into a situation. Yes, Olympia and the artists pulled it all together for the City of Paterson.
I had to experience this effort first hand, so I jumped on the free shuttle leaving New York City and headed out to Paterson. I bumped into a few #class folks who were in the show and a smattering of New York City gallery and media folks. Overall, the show’s opening was well attended, including a visit from local NJ senator. I left there thinking, “my word, what has Olympia just pulled off here?”
Talk about a powerhouse, a deal maker, a go getter, an organizer, mover shaker, game changer... ok...I’m running out of superlatives to express my regard for Olympia’s efforts this past year...
I’m thinking, if I were the mayor, councilman, congressman, senator, president of a country, I want this woman on my team! Wow...ok, Olympia, you will owe me a beer after this one.
Moving forward, in my eyes, Olympia symbolizes “the new world curator.” Smart, great business sense, civic minded, social media oriented, and not afraid to take on seemingly impossible projects.
One final sidenote: Olympia is pretty much self taught, an outsider who has forged her own way into the art world with dogged determination and curiosity to absorb all that is new and relevant. So here I present, up close and personal, Olympia Lambert!
AL:Could you briefly describe your career progress and current status, as well as a personal point or two that you think relevant/fun/interesting?
OL: Brief? Are you kidding? I am not brief. I’m a JOURNALISM major who can’t edit to save her life. I went to college at BU for journalism. Top school, great and all that jazz. Supposedly I’m very talented as a writer, but I hated my entire class because they all kept going on about “Where did you intern” er, uh, in HIGH SCHOOL. “I interned with Peter Jennings. Who did you intern for?” “Um, like, I was NEWS editor of my high school’s Pirate Press in Dade City, FL. After graduation, and a 3.5 year BS degree gotten far too early because of summer school and AP coursework, I had two weeks from my final exam to a temp job that would become my home away from home for the next 7 years in TV. So yes, I got sidelined by WGBH, the PBS station, as well as the Boston indie rock scene.
Eventually after likely far too many nights seeing Juliana Hatfield play at the Middle East, I made my way to a canvas and thought “Hey, lookie thar! I be an ARTIST!! Why don’t I move to NYC to become a big time superstar and go to SVA for my MFA.” Egged on by my friends and coworkers who were convinced I had talent, I quit my steady, well paying, good benefits, secure job to move in a snowstorm driving a Ryder truck getting detoured off the Triborough Bridge to live in a hovel of a room in a house with 5 strangers in a Brooklyn neighborhood that looked exactly like Massachusetts. (I.E., no small coincidence). So, now, 8.5 years later, I no longer paint, I know I’m an absolutely awful artist. Eventually I did get into SVA'S MFA Art Criticism Program, but with no financial aid, I couldn't go.and suddenly by golly, Bejesus, I’m a CURATOR. In a nutshell.
AL: If you had to brag about the four biggest accomplishments in your career, what would they be?
OL: I got 37 mortgage brokers to stop playing Nerf football and surfing CBS Sportsline each day for at least 2 hours to call their morning leads assigned to them.
I sold $23,000 worth of paintings to a Las Vegas businessman sight unseen via the internet for the gallery I work for.
No one broke a leg or injured themselves too badly with Escape From New York’s massive setup, construction and installation period.
Terence Koh emailed me out of the blue after I did a blog post on him, we started a correspondence, and we eventually did an extremely open and honest email interview for ArtCat that’s my pride and joy. Oh, and Timothy Greenfield Sanders also answered my questions for an interview spotlight as well for Hyperallergic.
AL: Aside from the accomplishments you mention, what do you consider to be your career credits, including any training, etc.?
OL: Absolutely nothing, unless you consider the basic art courses I took at BU, and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Other than that, it’s buying every single issue of ArtForum and Flash Art International from 1998-2003 and reading them cover to cover.
AL: Do you make your living through your curating?
OL: HAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.... Ah... HA. It is my goal to one day finally achieve lower middle class, and hopefully still work in art to get there. But truthfully, probably not a realistic goal.
AL: Do you have another job to supplement your income made through selling your curatorial practice? If so, please describe.
OL: Gallerina. No other description necessary.
AL: Does your family support your career choice? Please explain their views.
OL: My mom thinks I should be an announcer for the NFL. Does that help?
AL: Have you ever worked or do you currently work for a gallery, museum or artist? If yes, where/who and in what capacity?
OL: Yep. Bibro, DFN, Cambridge Art Association, etc..
AL: How about a list of some of your most recent shows/projects you have curated?
OL: Cosme Herrera at TowerBrook Private Equity in Manhattan; EFNY, Back to NY, and blogpix.
AL: What are some of the topics of the shows you have recently curated? What about the past?
OL: Topics stink. It’s all in the eye anyway. My topic for EFNY was actually escaping New York. See how far that got me.
Escape from New York, Artist - Thomas Lendvai
Escape from New York, Artist - Nicolas Fraser
AL: How you find your inspiration?
OL: It comes from within and trying to make that bully who ruined your life all those many years take notice and start up with a drinking problem so they can see how cool you’ve become and how lame they are. Seriously. Hey, I’m honest. Chip on the shoulders are what drives a good portion of the world. Prove me wrong.
AL: How would you describe your artistic community and how you fit in?
OL: The class clown. Navel gazer. Tries too hard. Means well. Asks for help too late. Trusts no one. A total failure, and pretty much not really part of a scene whatsoever. The outsider looking in. “I see you from the 13th floor” as Hatfield sings. Truthfully I doubt many think of me whatsoever in any capacity other than a funny Tweet or a FB status update.
AL: Why are you a curator?
OL: Because I actually wanted to make money selling and promoting artists whose work I 100% believed in. Didn’t really work out too well.
AL: What curators have affected your vision, shows that have been most inspirational?
OL: Who’s another curator? I actually pay no attention to curators. I pay attention to the artists.
AL: Who that you know personally has most affected your life/work as an artist?
OL: Just myself.
AL: What artists do you consider overrated and why?
OL: Luckily he’s dead—Dash Snow. Feel free to read my review on his “work” and you’ll see my opinion. In the meantime I’ll hold my tongue on his dearly departed soul.
AL: What is the most scandalous thing you have done in your life as a curator?
OL: I guess raise my voice and get frustrated and start to cry after the pressure got to be too much.
AL: What annoys you about artists?
OL: They are fairly immature and a good portion have never worked or can begin to understand the pressure of working full time—40 hour weeks, ALL year long; NO vacation except maybe 5 days per year as a standard, with 3 days sick pay. And the fact they use art speak. Look, art speak speaks only to fellow artists, not to people who will pay you for your work. Learn to talk like a regular human being and delete words such as “abject” and “expressing the subconscious” entirely from your vocabulary.
AL: What is cliché in the art world right now?
OL: Arte junk era. Junk art. Art made of scrapheaps. CRAP.
AL: How would you describe yourself in one word?
AL: How might someone else describe you in one word?
AL: What would someone close to you describe as your best and worst traits?
OL: Best—Extremely creative and bright Worst—No self-confidence
AL: What is the biggest misconception others sometimes have about you?
OL: That I’m mean. Please. I’m 100% honest and will never lie to you about your work. I’ve told many a friend I don’t like a painting, no matter their objections as to how great it is. If it sucks, it sucks. No, really, it does.
AL: What are you like in a group setting? How do you think you affect group dynamics?
OL: Totally shy in groups I don’t know and I don’t say ANYTHING. IN groups of people I know, I become part of the gang generally, though still a follower and far from a leader type.
AL: Describe your most embarrassing moment… and/or describe what you wish was your most embarrassing moment!
OL: Probably barfing in a snow drift in front of Radio City Music Hall and some midwest tourists. Welcome to NY, suckers!
AL: What is an odd fact about you or an unusual talent you possess?
OL: I have never taken a vacation for more than a 3 day time period in my entire adult life.
AL: What makes you nervous?
OL: Failure. I.E., my entire life so far.
AL: What are your favorite books, magazines, TV shows, movies, plays?
OL: I don’t read. I worshiped Lost. I love Anthony Bourdain and the Travel Channel. I want to travel. Broadway is seriously the most hated thing to me. The Road was best movie of past 10 years for me. Such an amazing work of art.
You can find Olympia at : http://olysmusings.blogspot.com/