an island sculptor uses her past life in ballet to inform kinetic installations

by JENNIFER VIKSE

Staten Island’s own DB Lampman has become known for large-scale, unusual sculptural installations utilizing a variety of materials, and has attracted attention from many who don’t even consider themselves art fans.

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A recent installation, on display for nearly two years at the ConferenceHouse Park and then Tappen Park, was evocative of dancers floating through the air—and that makes sense, since Lampman spent years studying ballet.

Born in Roswell, New Mexico, the 47-year-old trained in classical ballet and attended London’s Royal Ballet School. When a severe back injury ended her career as a dancer at age 20, she made the transition to another form of art.

“I moved from dance to artwork,” Lampman explained. She took classes at local community college, put together a portfolio, and applied to art school in Baltimore, where she would eventually meet her husband, Scott Van Campen. She received a BFA from Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1994 and moved on to New York, earning her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1996.

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“In some ways it wasn’t a big transition, because I had always made artwork,” she said. “My grandmother was a painter, my grandparents were in the theater. In some ways, I just stopped dancing with my body and began working with movement in different forms.”

Her principal form is sculpture—notably large-scale kinetic installations, in which the sculpture itself or its environment reacts and responds to the viewer. Such pieces have been displayed at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Islip Art Museum, ARC Gallery in Chicago, and the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan.

The mother of one also works in performance art and video, and while she draws and enjoys working with a variety of materials, she favors sculpture.

“I also like to experiment with lights, the studio, with sound,” she explained. “Looking back at my body of work, I feel like in a lot of ways what I’m interested in is dealing with connections…the way we connect with each other and the places around us. I also consider myself a feminist in my artwork—it comes from a place of being a female in the world.”

An example piece reflecting that sensibility consisted of a costume with tentacles, and a subsequent series of videos. “There were mountains, tumbleweeds—it was about feeling overwhelmed at all the roles in my life…being a mother, feeling overextended, pulled in different directions. That’s not something that’s limited to women or artists; it’s a common feeling.”

Lampmann and her husband are the founders of SI Makerspace, a community-based non-profit on the North Shore where artists and other creative people can use tools, equipment, and common space. It’s located along the Stapleton waterfront, where her next big project will be happening—a sculpture in the new waterfront park down the length of Front Street, adjacent to the new Urby residential and commercial buildings. She is currently working out the details of the piece, which should be installed in three to five years.

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“It’s a large-scale sculpture made out of stainless steel,” Lampmann explained. At about 15 feet high, it will be made of multiple pieces of steel tubing, each five to six inches in diameter. “All the pieces will swoop up into a wave-like form; one wraps into a knot around the middle and holds it. On the Staten Island waterfront, we have seen change happen… the waves and water coming through during Hurricane Sandy, for example. I wanted to speak to that—how we work together and hold each other up.”

When the sculpture is finished, it will be Lampman’s largest permanent installation

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Staten Island MakerSpace
450 Front Street / 718.273.3951 / makerspace.nyc