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Acclaimed artist Ann Hamilton, the American representative at last year’s 48th Venice Biennale, will give a public talk and interact extensively with Lafayette College students in classes, one-on-one sessions, and other meetings during a two-day residency at Lafayette March 8-9.

The artist will discuss her work and career in a free public talk at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at the Williams Center for the Arts.

One of the major artists of the modern period, Hamilton is Lafayette’s Richard A. and Rissa Grossman Visiting Artist for 1999-2000. Established in 1992 by Richard Grossman, a 1964 Lafayette graduate, the Grossman Visiting Artist and Exhibition Series gives students opportunities to interact with major 20th-century artists and supports presentation of significant exhibitions. Past Grossman visiting artists include Dorothea Rockburne (1992), Faith Ringgold (1993), Richard Anuszkiewicz (1995), Elizabeth Murray (1996), Leon Golub (1997) and Gregory Gillespie (1998).

The New York Times declares, “At 42, [Hamilton] is acknowledged as a top artist of her generation and her work, at its best, is lauded as poignant, poetic, and theatrical.” Her first day at Lafayette will include a informal meeting and dinner with art majors. She will also meet with Lafayette’s advanced art students in their studios, to speak with them about the extensive, varied projects they are doing to qualify for departmental honors when they graduate.

“This is an enormous opportunity for Lafayette students to interact on a one-on-one basis with one of the most renowned young artists in America right now,” says Robert S. Mattison, professor of art. Hamilton will have lunch with the art department on Wednesday and with faculty and students on Thursday.

A key component of Hamilton’s residency at Lafayette will be her interaction with students in a variety classes. These include the Beginning Sculpture of Jim Toia, who teaches both sculpture and painting and is director of community-based teaching.

In Toia’s class students are creating large-scale sculptures from cardboard, blow-ups of small objects, made with a particular location on campus in mind. One example is a seven-foot rock hammer that will be displayed at the geology department in Van Wickle Hall. The student artists have contacted the directors of the locations to seek permission for display at the intended locations. Hamilton will accompany the class as it takes the sculptures to the sites, providing on-site critiques.

“Since her work is installation-based and seeks to understand and highlight particulars of a given location and its history, I think this is an excellent opportunity to engage her particular and unique thinking and expertise,” says Toia. “As one of our country’s premier artists, we are extremely lucky to have this opportunity to have her on campus. We will take advantage of that by giving her a chance to see and engage with multiple sites and functions of our academic and non-academic community.”

Hamilton also will meet with students in four other classes, Modern Art, taught by Mattison; Age of Michaelangelo, taught by Diane Cole Ahl, Dana Professor of Art and department head; Protest Art, taught by Curlee Raven Holton, associate professor of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute; and Principles of Art, taught by Kim Thomas, a 1990 Lafayette graduate whose teaching areas include drawing, painting, and design.

Born in Lima, Ohio in 1956, Hamilton received a bachelor’s in fine arts in textile design from the University of Kansas in 1978, and a master’s in fine arts in sculpture from Yale University School of Art in 1985. She taught on the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1985-1991. In 1993, she was the only visual artist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, an especially significant honor given her relatively young age. Her other honors and awards include the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (1998), an NEA Visual Arts Fellowship (1993), the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (1992), Awards in the Visual Arts 9 (1990), a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1989), and a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award (1988). Since 1981, Hamilton has participated in over 60 solo and group exhibitions.

As The New York Times notes, Hamilton “has a mind as imposing as an Oxford don’s — and much more imaginative. Her works are known for being sensory and cerebral at the same time.” A Hamilton installation includes a variety of diverse materials fashioned into art encoded with layers of meaning. She or a designated person is often part of the work, which regularly includes a text or audio component.

Last year, Hamilton represented the United States at the 48th Venice Biennale. The installation she chose, “Myein,” includes a veil of water glass that frames and distorts the image of the United States Pavilion at the Biennale. “Inside the Pavilion,” explained the Times last year, “she will have fuchia-colored powder sifting down the gallery walls, collecting on Braille dots that spell out verse about human suffering. Barely audible in the background is a whispered recording of an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.”

Other work recently has shown at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal in Canada, the Musée Art Contemporain Lyon in France, the Miami Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut. She currently has work at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.

Since 1992, Hamilton has lived in Columbus, Ohio. She shares both home and studio with her husband, Michael Mercil, a sculptor who teaches studio classes at Ohio State University, and her son, four-year-old Emmett.

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