National Museum of Women in the Arts
Ann Hamilton
June 22 1956 - present
Photograph of Ann Hamilton, by Tony Mendoza, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
an HAM-ihl-tehn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Performance Art , Photography, Sculpture, Textiles and clothing, Installation Art
Artistic Role(s):
Filmmaker, Installation Artist, Mixed Media Artist , Multimedia Artist, Performance Artist, Photographer, Sculptor, Weaver, Fabric Designer
Abstraction, Conceptual Art
Artist's Biography:
Ann Hamilton is a contemporary installation and performance artist, internationally celebrated for her ability to mold disparate media into emotionally and thematically cohesive environments.

Having grown up in an exceptionally literate family, Hamilton began her collegiate career in 1974 studying literature and geography at St. Lawrence University in New York. After two years, however, she found herself drawn to weaving and decided to transfer to the University of Kansas, where she studied fiber arts under Cynthia Schira and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Later, while pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Scupture at the Yale School of Art, her interests took another turn, this time diverging from conventional sculpture into the realm of conceptual installation art. While her initial experiments in this mode were composed only of live, but motionless, models presented in minimal settings, she soon broadened her palette to include the mélange of recorded audio, choreographed performance, and assemblage for which she is now known.

Overtly labor-intensive, Hamilton’s installations often involve the accumulation and careful arrangement of small items, such as books, pennies, or teeth, on an immense scale. By suggesting an obsessive devotion of time and effort, her works implicitly question the relationship between labor and the creative process. This theme is underscored by the choreographed actions of her performers who knit, sew, or chew bread dough--their minute and repetitive gestures drawing specific attention to the historically overlooked domestic work of women.

The interaction of elements in Hamilton’s installations is never literal or easily reduced to allegory. Instead, congruence and meaning are achieved through what the artist has called “poetic structure.” She presents her media as inherently limited and, therefore, inter-reliant. For example, the texts that inspire her works are often present, but obscured by translation into Braille, international phonetic code, or altered audio recordings, implying the expressive boundaries of language. As a result, the overarching themes in Hamilton's works can only be fully realized and experienced as multimedia installations.

Other Occupation(s):
Editor, Lecturer, Professor, Gallery Technician
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT, USA (1983-1985) University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA (1976-1979) St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY, USA (1974-1976)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Michael John Mercil friend of Kathryn Clark student of Cynthia Schira collaborated with Ann Chamberlain colleague of Elizabeth Newman
Fellowships, grants and awards:
US Representative, Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy (1999) Larry Aldrich Foundation Award, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT, USA (1998) Fellowship, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL, USA (1993)
Earliest exhibition:
Work, The Exit Gallery, Banff, Canada (1981)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Modern Love: Gifts to the Collection from Heather and Tony Podesta