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Style : DESIGN : Creative Catalyst

August 18, 1991|BARBARA THORNBURG

If Lois Lambert had her way, she'd switch the often-heard maxim "You are what you eat" to "You are what you use." At her Gallery of Functional Art in Santa Monica, she champions everyday objects as art, making her something of a West Coast Andy Warhol.

Curating six shows a year, Lambert challenges artists, designers and architects (here and abroad) to transform chairs, tables, lamps, screens and jewelry into uncommon objets d'art. For recent shows, artist Jon Bok decorated a fanciful high-back chair with an oil painting, bottle caps and license plates; Morphosis' architects Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi designed a witty, earthquake-proof conference table with steel-spring legs; and artist Sheila Klein reinterpreted the kilim rug with pieces of old linoleum.

Lambert, who grew up in Chicago, has a multifaceted background but relies most on her drama studies: "Basically what goes on in the gallery is theater. I set the stage," she says. For her "A Day at the Beach" show, she brought in tons of sand, a boardwalk and fantasy surfboards.

In a plan to bring art and design to everyone, Lambert is developing a mail-order catalog. "I want a low-cost line that's not so elitist--chairs for $125 and less," she says. "Art should be accessible: You shouldn't have to be rich."

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