McKnight Finalist Installation
This summer I had the honor of being a finalist for the McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowship Grant. As an ‘out-state’ finalist I was allowed to set up a temporary installation in a presentation space at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Although I wasn’t ultimately chosen to receive a grant, this was a great opportunity to experiment with a couple new pieces, and with new configurations of a couple old ones.
For a while I've envisioned a version of Archival Structure 5 where two viewer would encounter each other through windows. Like a lot of people, I have been thinking about walls: What walls are, and what walls keep out—and keep in. I wanted to create a situation where it is ambiguous who is within the walls, and who without, who is the prisoner, and who the jailor.
This installation also gave me the opportunity to experiment with two new pieces. The first, Hobo Signs, is a series of Mylar packaging, wall- mounted works based on the visual language itinerant homeless once used to communicate with each other about the opportunities and dangers of the road and rails. The second, In Our Words, is a series of three-dimensional corrugated cardboard letters that the viewer is invited to manipulate to create meaningful words and sentences.
With both works, I was interested in how we make assumptions--about the differences between language and image, form and content, two and three dimensions--that may not be as firmly delineated or clearly dichotomous as we think.
I envision large piles of 3D letters spread throughout the gallery, which viewers could rearrange into any meaningful words and phrases they wish. The exhibition would be ever-changing, and the visceral experience of making and unmaking these words and phrases would—I hope—impress on visitors the negotiations and compromises that are necessary if all voices are to be heard.
This installation also gave me the opportunity to share Reliquaries 8 and 9 with the 2018 McKnight jurors. Although this was not a new version of the piece—I have created diamond configurations for 3 other installations—it was my first chance to see this version in the context of the other three pieces.
Reliquaries 8 and 9 is an unlimited series of display cases, each containing a single object found while walking—most often with my dogs in Good Thunder, or between my car and my office at Minnesota State University in Mankato
The form of Reliquaries 8 and 9 is derived from a sacred geometric pattern Islamic mathematicians called ‘Breath of the Compassionate’. This name refers to the theological concept that Allah brings life to all beings through his aspiration: that he literally 'breaths' beings to life. I saw in this a metaphorical connection to my retrieving and displaying of these found objects as a way of restoring their dignity and giving them meaning through changed context.
It was an honor to be able to share my work with the McKnight jurors. Although I would, of course, have preferred a different outcome, it was humbling to be in such amazing company, and to get this close encourages me to keep trying!
In Our Words would not have been possible without the 2018 Artist Initiative grant I received from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
David Hamlow is a fiscal year 2018 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.