At the end of 2012, Ann Hamilton wowed, astounded, and brought glee to everyone attending The Event of a Thread. She is known for her highly poetic and sensory large-scale environments, and this one did not disappoint. She suspended more than 40 swings on 50-foot-long steel chains that looked like a field of pendulums. 'When you see a swing, you know what to do - it doesn't need instructions,' Hamilton said of her plan to invite visitors to literally set her work in motion.
The pulleys in each swing were attached to a gigantic piece of cloth that - even with the most subtle movements - undulated, flowed, and grew animated. Commissioned by the New York Park Avenue Armory, The Event of a Thread references the building's architecture along with the social history of the armory.
In 2014, Hamilton's exhibition entitled the common S E N S E opened at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. For this exhibition, tails, feathers, paws, and claws peeked out from blurry scans of natural history specimens. Hamilton combed through the collections of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and created newspaper prints fragmenting the preserved animals. But that was only the beginning.
Over the course of 6 months, the artist filled the space with new work, including clothing from the Burke that included animal fur and other animal parts; performance art; and objects from the Henry and University of Washington Libraries. It was a huge success, and I can only describe it as an awesome visual feast. ('the common S E N S E -the animals' is currently on exhibit in Santa Fe - check out the website here.)
It takes real vision and grace to create the spaces Hamilton presents to us. And as all great artists do, she is evolving. Her ephemera-dense environments, filled with the sensory and tactile, have evolved. Her work now focuses more on reading, speaking and listening. Enter an Ann Hamilton environment, scheduled to open in 2018 at the Cortlandt Street Subway Station. Wiped off the subway map on September 11, 2001, the No. 1 line station will reopen as a gateway to the significant destinations of the World Trade Center and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. And Hamilton was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Arts and Design to fill the space - with words. (Read about this project, here.)
Ann Hamilton occasionally participates in arts and lectures evenings, but she is primarily consumed with her work as an Ohio State art professor. Her work is singularly fresh and original, and I'm hoping to have another opportunity soon to attend one of her exhibitions.