Allison Janae Hamilton
My artwork features uncanny subjects and surreal scenes that blend the epic with the everyday and the disturbing with the delicate within the expanse of the rural American south. The chief concern of my practice is land: I am curious about the ways that the actual topography of the American landscape
contributes to social and political constructions of space. I am likewise interested in the role of landscape in the conception and figuring of “Americana.” In my treatment of land, the natural environment is the central protagonist, not a backdrop, in the unfolding of historic and contemporary narratives.
My work is accordant with Walker Evans’s premise that “southerners are haunted by their own landscape.” I create unsettling figurations that engage the social and political concerns of today’s changing southern terrain, such as land loss, environmental justice, climate change, and sustainability.
Each work contains narratives that are pieced together from folktales, hunting and farming rituals, African-American nature writing, and Baptist hymns. Most intimately, I am influenced by mythologies passed down to me through my own relationship with the region: I was born in Kentucky, raised in Florida, and my maternal family’s farm and homestead lies in the rural flatlands of western Tennessee.
Drawing from all of these references, I imagine what an epic myth looks and feels like in rural terrain. In this vein, my art practice centers on imagination in order to meditate on disruption and magic within the seemingly mundane rituals of natural and human-made environments.
My interdisciplinary process employs sculpture, photography, video, installation, and taxidermy. The materials that I use range from animal carcasses to religious iconography, layered projections to thrumming soundscapes, wrought iron and steel to insects and dirt. My consistent use of animal remains incarnates the landscape as a knowing participant. These elements come together in immersive spaces that situate the viewer within a disorienting terrain where the alluring and the ominous meet. These
environments bring the captivating and the disturbing together in ways that signify on rituals, histories, myth, and everyday practice within rural southern land.