In Wacissa (2019), Allison Janae Hamilton upends the world, plunging viewers directly into a series of rivers in her home region of North Florida. The rivers are linked through the Slave Canal, named for the enslaved people who were forced to dig it out in the 1850s to transport cotton through the Florida panhandle. As the camera moves through the connected waterways, it drags the viewer along, upside-down and underwater, past wildlife as well as fallen trees and other debris left from a hurricane that devastated the region in 2018. Although the river’s inverted landscape is beautiful, we are at the mercy of forces both natural and man-made: the speed of Hamilton’s unseen kayak, the turbulent currents, and the drifting plant matter that impedes the lens. The resulting experience is at once dreamlike and entirely real, sometimes peaceful and sometimes jarring, creating the sense that we are being pulled beneath the surface, never to emerge.
Hamilton’s work explores culture through landscape and locality, fusing land-centered folklore and personal family narratives to address the social, political, and environmental concerns of today’s changing Southern terrain, including land loss, displacement, environmental justice, and the impact of climate change on communities. Conjuring up the relationship between place and person, life and the land, Wacissa brings the beauty and danger of nature to the screens each night at midnight in Times Square. Within this context, Hamilton questions our relationship to our surroundings and evokes the environmental concerns that also face New Yorkers in a city surrounded by water.
Viewers in Times Square are invited to sync their phones to the underwater sounds of Wacissa via QR codes, which will be displayed throughout Father Duffy Square.
Coinciding with the presentation of Wacissa, Marianne Boesky Gallery will present A Romance of Paradise, Allison Janae Hamilton’s inaugural solo exhibition with the gallery. For A Romance of Paradise, Hamilton will present new photographs, videos, and sculptural works that highlight the artist’s ongoing exploration of interwoven themes such as environmental justice, folklore and mythologies, and the traditions of communities living in vulnerable landscapes within the rural American South. A Romance of Paradise will be on view March 27 – April 24, 2021 at the gallery’s 507 West 24th Street location in New York.
Allison Janae Hamilton (b. 1984) is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sculpture, installation, photography, and video. Her work often incorporates natural materials such as reclaimed wood, animal hides, and feathers. Hamilton fuses land-centered folklore and personal family narratives into haunting yet epic mythologies that address the social and political concerns of today's changing Southern terrain, including land loss, environmental justice, climate change, and sustainability. The artist’s commitment to the land is driven by her own migrations, from Kentucky, where she was born, to Florida, where she grew up, to rural Tennessee, the location of her maternal family’s homestead, and to New York, where she currently lives. Hamilton’s work connects the physicality of the landscape with the lived experience it carries, positioning landscape as critical to understanding both history and contemporary culture.
Allison Janae Hamilton has exhibited widely across the U.S. and abroad. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), North Adams, MA (2018) and Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, GA (2018). She has further been featured in group presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY; the Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY; the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; the Jewish Museum, New York, NY; and the Istanbul Design Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey. Hamilton has also participated in a range of fellowships and residencies, including with the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York, NY; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and Fundación Botín; Santander, Spain. She is the recipient of the Creative Capital Award and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant. Hamilton holds a PhD in American Studies from New York University and an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University. She lives and works in New York.
Marianne Boesky Gallery was established in 1996 in New York City. Since its inception, the gallery's mission has been to represent and support the work of emerging and mid-career international artists of all media.
Wacissa (2019) Image courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. © Allison Janae Hamilton