UMass Amherst museum receives $25K grant to host residency and exhibit by renowned artist 

  • “Floridawater II,” 2019 photograph by Allison Janae Hamilton. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. © Allison Janae Hamilton

  • “Dollbaby standing in the orchard at midday,” 2015 photograph by Allison Janae Hamilton. Allison Janae Hamilton

Staff Writer
Thursday, June 18, 2020

The University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to host a residency and exhibit by Allison Janae Hamilton, a celebrated multimedia artist who draws on the landscapes of the American South as inspiration for her work.

Hamilton, who grew up in Florida and Kentucky and now lives in New York City, is expected to spend time on campus in 2021 — and possibly make a few visits to UMass this fall — while a major exhibit devoted to her work will be offered during the spring 2022 semester.

It’s a bright spot to look forward to, says UMCA Director Loretta Yarlow, as the COVID-19 pandemic has left the museum shuttered since mid March, and it’s still not known when UMCA can reopen, though UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has announced tentative plans to open some parts of the campus this fall.

“We’re thrilled to have [Hamilton] coming here,” Yarlow said during a recent phone call. “She’s a major artist who works in a number of areas, and we’re excited to think about what she’ll come up with when she has a chance to research the university’s collections.”

Yarlow notes that visiting artists at UMCA often look at the museum’s own collection when devising new work but that Hamilton will also be examining the university’s extensive natural history collections. A photographer, videographer, sculptor and installation artist, Hamilton draws on many elements of the natural world, from landscapes to plant matter and animal remains, for her work.

As her website puts in, much of her art draws on “ways that the American landscape contributes to our ideas of ‘Americana’ and social relationships to space in the face of a changing climate, particularly within the rural American south.”

Hamilton’s work has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, MASS MoCA, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and numerous other settings.

Yarlow says she anticipates Hamilton will be working “across disciplines” during her time at UMass to create new work and to lead some workshops and public discussions at the university. UMCA also needs to raise $25,000 to match the NEA funding for Hamilton’s residency and exhibit.

In addition, the museum is moving ahead with plans to open a virtual exhibit this fall of prints by Nicole Eisenman, a New York artist primarily known for her painting. The UMCA show will be the first museum exhibit to focus exclusively on Eisenman’s lithographs, etchings and other prints, Yarlow says. A poster designed by Eisenman will also be sent to members of the UMCA’s mailing list and others.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@ gazettenet.com.