Home is where the heart is: Allison Janae Hamilton

Home is where the heart is: Allison Janae Hamilton

Visual artist shared how she brought a little piece of home into every work of art she creates.
Published: April 21, 2021 | Updated: August 1st, 2021 at 2:31 pm
Allison Janae Hamilton addresses social and political issues like climate change and sustainability in her artwork.
Allison Janae Hamilton addresses social and political issues like climate change and sustainability in her artwork.

While Allison Janae Hamilton’s art spreads far and wide across many places and accomplishments, many of her works take root in that of her own home state of Florida as a “vestibule” between her home space and the outside world.

Hamilton, an award-winning multidisciplinary artist, spoke about the inspiration behind her artwork during a virtual talk on April 20, open to the public and hosted by the Syracuse University Art Museum. The museum recently acquired one of her sculptures for its permanent collection which can be viewed online and will also be in the museum’s upcoming fall reinstall as well.

Although Hamilton holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from NYU and an MFA in Visual Arts from Colombia University, her love for art developed at a much younger age. Family reunions and birthdays on her family farm in Tennessee brought her and her photojournalist uncle together.

It was surrounded by family that she was introduced to her first art form, photography, and began taking 35 mm portraits around age twelve. To this day, Hamilton’s works still continue to portray this sense of family and home.


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"Untitled" [Ouroboros] 2017

She later immersed herself in art when she moved to NYC where Hamilton was exposed to an array of art forms. “My eyes opened to the ways that different media can work together,” she said.

Hamilton began working in sculpture, installation, video and non-documentary photography. Despite the vast variety of work she created, Hamilton kept one thing the same: her connection with her work. She brings together land-centered history and personal family narratives into her art that address social and political concerns.

In one particular piece from her project “Untitled” (Ouroboros) at first glance, the audience is able to see two alligators surrounded by fabric. However, within this piece, Hamilton places an underlying focus on climate change. Inspired by how climate change and rising sea levels are already disproportionately affecting communities in her home state of Florida, Hamilton decided to further research the environmental crises, bringing in the alligator to her art as a piece of home.

Even when her pieces do not necessarily revolve around social issues, Hamilton always maintains a focus on sustainability, reusing and recycling objects that typically would be thrown away. When creating sculptures, she has used materials like the upholstery tacks that remind her of her grandma’s living room and guinea feathers similar to those of ones she grew up raising. No matter the project, Hamilton never fails to tie her values together in her art. “I’ll really think about the material, tangible objects and items contained in the landscape and put those into the work,” she said.

When asked about the future of her work, Hamilton said “I would love to one day do a show like all kinds of black and white film photography or just kind of experiment with seeing some pieces standing on their own as well. But I really enjoyed the conversation between the different media as well.”