Brenton Hamilton: The States Project: Maine
I met Brenton Hamilton, or BH as some call him, in 2004 when I came to the Maine Photographic Workshops as a summer intern. He was a quiet, yet creative force that buzzed around campus, bouncing between labs with contact frames and chemistry.
Watching him work with and later assisting him as he taught in the high school programs opened my eyes to teaching. I saw how fascinating, rewarding and fun it could be. From Zone VI paper to mural printing to alternative process tips and tricks BH is a wealth of knowledge that he freely shares with his students, colleagues and friends.
Born and raised in Maine, his ancestors settled on the islands in Casco Bay. Brenton states, “There is a certain quality of light here. There is a pace and a quiet that works for me to concentrate on what I need to, to sustain the ideas. The horizon line as seen from islands was a really early influence for me – in landscape images that I made very early on. Of course all of that has lead to other motifs.”
He was introduced to historic processes in school, learning the platinum processes. His work is fueled by his constant investigations into cultural history, literature and ancient chemical texts. Brenton is not afraid to try something new, he employs the same, ‘why don’t you try this’ advice that he shares with his students in his personal practice. His work is all routed in the historic processes, with each process he is able to “resurrect and reinvestigate the history of the medium itself” he states.
His early work, seen in his Blue Poet Dreams, is rooted in the figurative, he states that those are the protagonists that act out and tell his story. Yet, in more recent work, he is investigating the notion of “No Content” delving deeper into creating new expressions with his work. Brenton refers to it as a search for Purity, peeling away the content as he explores the materiality of the medium.
Brenton is a visual artist using 19th c photographic techniques as his principle tools. For over two decades he has created a sustained body of work largely cameraless in practice and blending collage and light sensitive, materials. Hamilton principally uses bichromated emulsions, platinum and the cyanotype in his printmaking. Additionally, he specializes in black glass ambrotypy within collodion processes and has created a unique body of work.
A well known educator on the campus of Maine Media Workshops he is a leading educator and historian. Brenton’s work is wildly collected and has been exhibited internationally as well as held in the permanent collections of The Portland Museum of Art, The Farnsworth Art Museum and the University of New England and LaGrange College’s Art Center in Georgia within their permanent collections. A book The Blue Poet Dreams was published by Obscura Press and his work is represented by TILT Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. In early 2017 the University of Maine Museum of Art, mounted a mid career retrospective with nearly 60 works.
I am telling a wild embellished story and I have done so with a concentrated approach to source materials. Ransacking art history deconstructing books sources and re-assembling fragments from paintings, engravings and letters and ephemera into new possibilities and new stories. Ancient images and classical motifs are rearranged into a pastiche were culture and stories collide shaping a new imagined narrative. Photographically, I am employing hand applied emulsions with gesture and expressive marks with liquid emulsions upon fine artist papers and printing then via negatives in the sunlight.
The results are a hybrid of materials and images from the history of pictures and culture to present the viewer a reformed “tall-tale” Stories and an imagined world for the viewer to ponder.
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