By Michael D. Minichiello
Even though he loved to draw from an early age, California-born artist Nick Lamia was originally on a very different career path. “I was pre-med in college,” he says. “Then I went into environmental science and ecology, thinking I would go into environmental law. However, on the very day that I received an offer to be a paralegal, I also got a call from an organization called The Yosemite Institute, a school that uses the outdoors as a classroom. It turned out that I just loved it, living in a place like that for an extended period of time. And the decision to move there gave me the courage to devote my energies to my artwork.”
Yosemite was not the place to pursue that so, on the advice of an artist friend, Lamia moved to New York in 1996. “That was a little bit of a culture shock,” he says with understatement. “I went directly from living in a sleeping bag in Yosemite to living in a sleeping bag in a friend’s apartment! I attended the New York Studio School and I learned a lot there. I really credit them with giving me a strong work ethic, too. That’s the most important thing a creative person can have. Every successful artist I know is a hard worker.”
As far as what influences his art, Lamia says that he tries to collect experiences. “Real experiences,” he clarifies. “One of my life-shaping events was when I got a job on a sailboat. It was just me and one other person and we sailed from Virginia to Bermuda and around the Caribbean. When you’re doing that, no one’s coming to your rescue. If something goes wrong, you’re up to your own devices.”
“That, too, has parallels in the creative world,” he continues. “When I’m painting in the studio, no one’s coming in and helping me. It’s not a life or death situation, of course, but you can’t call the Coast Guard. In a way, that’s good. I like to paint myself into a hole and then find a way to climb out of it. It’s important to trust your instincts even though you’re traveling in some unchartered territory. Hopefully you can return with some treasure.”
His current show contains both drawings and abstract oil paintings, relating to the deep interest the artist still has in ecology. “That really is the common thread between all of the images I make,” Lamia says. “The theme is usually the relationship between society and nature. If we can manage to reform the relationship between the two then we stand a chance of continuing to thrive as a species. But it’s going to take some work and some real thought about what that can be.”
Lamia admits that New York can be a tough place to survive in, especially financially. But he also feels that being in a big city is important for him as an artist. “New York is still such a vibrant place, particularly the West Village,” he says. “To see all kinds of different people doing different things makes it so interesting to be here. As much as I love the outdoors and it’s shaped the things that have ended up in my paintings, it’s being in the gritty and vibrant city that’s kept me vivacious.” He laughs. “At least I hope so!”
“Cloud, Mountain, Valley, Sea” is Nick Lamia’s latest one-man show, currently at the Jason McCoy Gallery on East 57th Street through April 13th.