This August, as part of Festival Cluain Meala, Claire Lambe returns to her home town Clonmel from her adopted home in Woodstock, New York State with an exhibition of portraits entitled Home Towns.
The exhibition will be launched by District Mayor Pat English at the South Tipperary Art Centre in Nelson Street, Clonmel, on Tuesday, August 4 with a reception at 7pm. The exhibition will continue until August 29.
Preceding the launch at 5pm, in the studio upstairs in the Arts Centre, Claire’s husband, Carey Harrison, author, raconteur and son of actors Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer, will entertain with some behind-the-scenes stories from his
childhood among the stars of Hollywood’s golden age.
Six months ago Claire sent out a call via The Nationalist and social media for current Clonmel residents to send her photographs for a portrait project. Her aim was to make 15 paintings that would be representative of a community with respect to gender, age and ethnicity – such was the response that she completed 20.
These 20 paintings will form half of the exhibition in the Arts Centre; the second half will be portraits of people from Claire’s adopted home of Woodstock (site of the famous 1969 rock festival), where she has been working on a parallel portrait project as artist-in-residence at the Woodstock library – hence the title Home Towns.
The identities of the subjects of the Clonmel portraits will remain secret until the exhibition opens on August 4.
Claire’s father Paddy Lambe (who died in 1992) owned a menswear shop in O’Connell Street, now the site of the Allen’s store. Her mother Clare died in 2007 and with the siblings far flung from the United States to Australia the family home was sold, making return visits to Clonmel difficult.
“My Clonmel world boiled down to lightning visits to the cemetery on trips back to Ireland”, she says.
However the miracle of Facebook allowed her to reconnect with a lot of old Clonmel friends including Maureen Purcell of the South Tipperary Art Group (STAG), which Claire had been a member of when she was a teenager. Maureen was one of the founding members of STAG and is now the voluntary manager of the Arts Centre in Nelson Street.
Aged 17 Claire left Clonmel to attend the Crawford College of Art in Cork. She transferred to the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art. Later she earned a Masters in Fine Art from the City University of New York and has exhibited her work on both sides of the Atlantic.
“It was with STAG that I realised for the first time that there was a whole world out there populated by people who were as obsessed with art as I was”, she says.
Carey Harrison’s event promises to be a particularly interesting evening especially for film buffs and fans of his father Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Noel Coward and other cinema legends. As a prize-winning novelist and playwright, Carey is a consummate story-teller and he will also allow time for a questions and answers session before inviting his audience to join him and Claire in the gallery for refreshments and the launch of the
This event, Tales from the Golden Age of Hollywood, commences at 5pm and admission is €10. Proceeds from Carey’s event will benefit the Arts Centre and help offset some of the significant costs of bringing Claire’s exhibition across the Atlantic.
The exhibition Home Towns is sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, Tipperary County Council and the South Tipperary Arts Centre.