By SUSAN MARQUEZ • Photography by TIMOTHY IVY
Oxford artist’s love of color, confidence, and the outdoors are channeled into her distinct pieces
An interesting path led artist Nicole Lamar to Oxford from Dallas, where she was raised. Ultimately she followed in her father’s footsteps, choosing to go to Ole Miss after high school, one of only two in her senior class of 1,400 who chose to attend Ole Miss for college.
“My dad was staying with an uncle in Jackson, and he literally hitchhiked to Oxford to go to Ole Miss. I heard that story all my life,” she laughs. The ride he hitched unknowingly changed his destiny and the family tree. Lamar adds, “The irony is that now there are tons of kids from Texas at Ole Miss!”
While she went to Ole Miss to earn a business degree, it didn’t take Nicole long to realize she wasn’t suited for that major. “I couldn’t stand it. I decided I wanted to major in art instead, without really even understanding what that meant. I soon realized I was the luckiest person in the world to be given the opportunity to have Jere Allen as a professor.” Known as “the Mississippi Rembrandt,” Allen has had a number of solo exhibits at many notable institutes and galleries across the nation, and is now represented by the Carol Robinson Gallery in New Orleans.
“I still can’t get an eyeball or nose right,” says Nicole, “but Jere always encouraged me and said to just do what I could. He pointed out to me that I loved color. So he said I should just work on color.” Lamar notes that it was a profound lesson for her to realize what her passion or gift was and to concentrate just on that. “He was right. That was my thing, and it still is!”
Nicole had big aspirations for her life right out of school. “I went to New York twice, once while I was in college and immediately afterwards. I loved fabric and had always thought I’d work in fashion. I called my friend, Leslie Gordon, who worked for Cambridge Dry Goods, and she got me a job.” But Nicole fell in love with an Oxford guy, and she moved back to Mississippi. “I am so in love with my husband,” she laughs. “Then I had my babies, and I poured everything I had into them.”
She may not have been in New York City, but that didn’t stop Nicole from blooming where she was planted, using her artistic and creative talents. “I worked at Oxford Floral Company for several years, and that allowed me to be creative. I also continued to paint, and that helped me to grow even more creatively.”
Now her four children, two boys and two girls, are grown, all four graduated from Ole Miss. “It was time for us to move to the country,” she says. Nicole and her husband moved into a small cabin about twenty miles from town on a private lake. “I love the outdoors, and the outside of our cabin is my favorite place in the world. My “studio” consists of three big pine trees. I have a nail on each one where I will pop on a canvas and paint. I just love it. When my painting begins to ‘tighten up,’ I don’t like it as much. I like to loosen up.”
Nicole uses acrylic paint that she applies layer by layer. “I love to paint on canvas and plywood— especially plywood, because I love how the grooves in the wood show through.” Color is still Nicole’s thing, and she uses bright, bold splashes of color to create beautiful works of art. And like Jere Allen before her, she has encouraged many others to paint as well. “I know I’ve inspired others to pick up a paint brush, and that has made me happy on my journey. I have loved being a part of that process for someone else. What I tell others is that you don’t need to overthink it. You just simply have to start.”
“I paint by the heart, and I’m often known as the girl who paints hearts,” Nicole explains. In fact, hearts have become one of the signature themes of her work. “Sometimes I write Bible verses on the canvas as well. I also paint some figures, mostly women’s faces, and usually very abstract. I really do have a love of color. I love how it makes me feel, and sharing that connection with others. I also love the creative process itself.”
Her first ever art show was held at City Grocery when she was twenty-five years old and pregnant with her second child. “It was all about motherhood, and the theme was ‘painting through the eyes of a child.’ I’ve done many shows since then, but that one held a very special place in my heart.”
As a young mother, Nicole was drawn to other artists and wanted to collect art for her home. “Oxford has always been a great place to do that on a budget, because of all the great student art for sale here. I have pieces I bought early on that I still love.” Because of that, she wants her art to be accessible to anyone who wants to start or add to a collection. “I have pieces priced as low as $45.”
Collectors can find Nicole’s art at Oxford Floral Company, at Pickering Boxwood in Memphis, and she does commission work.
Through her art, Nicole has found another mission in life—sharing the importance of healthy living with others. “I have been a Juice Plus representative for eighteen years, and I’m pretty proud of that longevity.” Nicole says her focus on health has evolved into a real appreciation for what your body can do for you as a vehicle. “I believe our health is one of the greatest gifts we are given, and I also believe that people need to use their talents. And if you don’t have health and vitality, you can’t fully use your gifts. Our gifts are something we need to use with all our might.”
Lamar feels so strongly about sharing that message with others that she recently presented her first ever conference in Oxford, the Hello Confidence workshop. “I have been through it in life, and I know others are going through their own struggles. The whole workshop was about listening to whatever is tugging at your heart. Life goes by so fast, and unfortunately, I feel as if I learned that lesson later in life. I want to share this message with other women so they can recognize their gifts now, to develop confidence, and to take care of their bodies. That way, they will be in a position to share their gifts with others.”
There is also no doubt that Nicole will be sharing her creative talents with her new grandson, recently born in Miami. “He’s our first grandson, and we are over the moon!”
Just a quick look at Nicole’s Instagram page, @nicoleglamar, will give you an idea of her positive personality. With messages like “your story needs to be heard,” and “now’s the time to go all in,” Nicole’s positive mantras are encouraging and inspirational. For Nicole, confidence means a willingness to try—which she readily displays as she tries and tries in her upbeat videos to do a full handstand. “A challenge is good for you. It’s always the right time.”