Artist explains social commentary behind work

Elizabeth Huang

Students and faculty gathered Tuesday in the Art Building to listen to award-winning artist Ann Hamilton discuss her work and artistic process as well as answer some students’ questions.

Hamilton’s various installations are often large-scale multimedia designs. Studio art graduate student Isaac Reyes said he likes the dynamic nature of her art.

“She takes a lot of time to think about her pieces,” Reyes said. “I like that she works on a really big scale. She [engages] with more than just the eyes. Her installations are something you can walk into. You experience the whole thing not just visually.” 

Hamilton’s art is regarded not only for its aesthetic purposes, but also for its social commentary, as seen in her installation, “the event of a thread,” in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall in New York. The installation is named after the point where two threads cross, which Hamilton calls an event. In the piece, a system of swings are connected to a giant white cloth, representing the political and social impasse that people are at with each other, Hamilton said.

“When you swing, the cloth registers the turbulence of the movement, and it connects across the system to the swinger on the other side,” Hamilton said. “So there is this reciprocity. So even though someone is really far away on the other side of the armory you can actually feel their weight. When the cloth was raised and lowered you could see each other.”

Department of Art and Art History chair Jack Risley told Hamilton he enjoys the way her art engages people.

“Your work has a social aspect to it,” Risley said. “I think of your work as people-centric in the sense that people are objects or performers or participating as an audience. Conversely, I’ve seen your pieces just attract really interesting people.”  

At the end of the talk, Hamilton gave advice to encourage art students.  

“Trust yourself. You have to listen to yourself. Trust where your attention is drawn,” Hamilton said. “Right when you’re in school, it’s like you are filling up with things that are going to sustain you 20 or 30 years down the road. Don’t worry if all these things don’t seem to connect. It’s all part of the way you’re going to knit these things into your own experience.”