Allison Janae Hamilton: Recent Works

Working across media, Allison Janae Hamilton (American, born 1984) brings together place-based folklore and personal family anecdotes to create mythologies that address the changing social and physical landscapes of the American South. Often employing natural materials, such as palm fronds, feathers, and horsehair, Hamilton explores how environmental justice, climate change, and land preservation disproportionately impact communities of color. A significant undercurrent of the artist’s practice are her migrations throughout the South, from her birthplace of Kentucky; to the swamplands of North Florida, where she was raised; to Western Tennessee, the location of her maternal family’s homestead. Connecting the physical realities of these landscapes with the histories they have witnessed, Hamilton proposes that coping with the past, surviving the present, and preparing for the future require grasping the great power of the natural world.

Hamilton frames her oeuvre as an epic, with each new body of work functioning as a chapter in an overarching narrative. Her Riley CAP Gallery exhibition is a compact, mid-career survey featuring recent photographs, sculptures, and video that presents Florida’s coastal Big Bend region—a marshy swath of land that connects the state’s panhandle and peninsula—as the central protagonist. The artist, who lives in North Florida part-time, describes the area as a place where the landscape is “in charge.” For Hamilton, the environment is more character than backdrop. The photographs Three girls in sabal palm forest II and III and Sisters, Wakulla County FL, all 2019, immerse us in a densely-wooded setting common in the southeastern United States. Also known as a “cabbage palm,” the hardy sabal palm is the state tree of Florida. In these images, the trees tower over Hamilton’s young subjects, yet the forest does not read as threatening. Rather, it seems to envelop and protect the girls, offering a place of refuge untouchable by the outside world.

Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project (CAP) Gallery exhibitions are supported by Douglas County, Catherine & Terry Ferguson, and Sara Foxley.

Friday, February 4; 6 pm
Virtual Artist Event with Allison Janae Hamilton