Allison Janae Hamilton – Wacissa, 2019

<p>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.</p> <p></p> <p>In Hamilton’s treatment of land, the natural environment is the central protagonist, not a backdrop, in the unfolding of historic and contemporary narratives. In the large-scale video piece <em>Wacissa</em>, Hamilton transports viewers through a series of rivers in her home region of North Florida. The rivers she navigates are all linked through the area’s Slave Canal, so-called as it was built via slave labor in the 1850s to aid the transport of cotton. Filming from her kayak, Hamilton placed the camera into the water, plunging viewers directly into the river. In the resulting video, our senses are upended by the turbulent audiovisuals. Hamilton creates a jarring dichotomy of experience, the untouched beauty of the underwater landscape is paired with a sense that we are being pulled beneath the surface, never to emerge.</p>