Senior art major finds inspiration from ecosystems
From Jan. 14 to Feb. 8 GC student Thomas Hamilton curated and presented artist Chuck Hemard’s exhibit in Leland Gallery. The exhibit, titled “Pinus Palustris: An Endangered Ecosystem,” features photographs of an endangered species of pine trees and their native habitats, which have been mishandled and mistreated.
Hamilton, a senior art major with a concentration in museum studies , was assigned this project as a part of his senior capstone. Thomas’ role as curator of this exhibit involved an intensive process of development and execution, making placement decisions as well as choosing to include a supplementary display of “loose” photos which were less formal and not framed.
“The beginning process for this was researching an artist,” Hamilton said. “I had to have a statement, what I want the show to accomplish, what my goals are.”
Because capstone students are able to choose which artist’s work they would like to curate, a considerable amount of research and contemplation goes into their decision.
“It was the trees that really resonated with me,” Hamilton said when explaining why he chose Hemard’s work. “I grew up exploring in the woods in the south, and these specific trees are native to the Southeast. The photos show how fire is actually a really important part of their ecosystem… it clears the brush, provides nutrients and is just a part of the natural cycle.”
Hamilton was also inspired by Hemard’s devotion to this body of art. Hemard was certified in controlled fires and began low-burn fires in order to simultaneously capture his photos and encourage tree growth.
Ernesto Gómez, GC professor of art, oversaw Hamilton’s capstone assignment and lightly guided his work as his capstone mentor.
“[Hamilton] has worked with [Hemard] for a year now, from research online to actually meeting him and having a reception about a month ago,” Gómez said.
After exchanging emails with Hemard for a few months, Hamilton was able to understand Hemard’s art more fully.
“When you get into the head of the artist, you learn the real stories behind the work, and that’s what [Hamilton]’s job was as curator,” Gómez said.
As the exhibition came to its close, Hamilton reflected on the past year fondly.
“I feel more experienced, for sure,” Hamilton said. “I feel like I’m ready to go out into the art world, having to pay attention to every little detail like I did.”
He received positive feedback on his work at the reception on Jan. 17, which Hemard also attended. The spacious Leland Gallery was full of students and faculty that had come to listen to both the artist and the curator speak about the exhibit.
“This place was packed,” Gómez said. “And that means a lot to an artist. When you’re standing with your work, and there are 100 people in there, and they’re all focused on you…That makes the five, six, seven years all worth it. We work for moments like that…and it can’t happen without the curators.”
Photo courtesy of Madi Brillhart