Member Feature: Timothy Hamilton
“ARTISTS ARE OFTEN NOT IMMEDIATELY VALUED IN SOCIETY BUT THEY CREATE THE CULTURE AROUND US. ARTISTS TAKE A VISION FROM THEIR MIND AND TURN IT INTO A REALITY FOR EVERYONE.”
What is your background – what were you doing/working on before ADX?
I am a trained sculptor and printmaker. Graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Oregon in 2012, and an MFA in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2015. In graduate school I explored concepts and materials and did a lot of mixing mediums.
How long have you been making art?
For as long as I can remember. I grew up in an environment surrounded by art and making. Everyone in my family is an artist, whether it be illustration, sewing, or poetry.
How has your art changed since then? (mediums, themes, etc.)
I started out doing illustrations as a kid, got into poetry and writing in high school, and when I was in the army I did illustrations and video. When I got out of the army I went to school and did art in a lot of mediums but gravitated toward sculpture. I really enjoyed the methodical process of sculpture and it makes more sense to me because I think in 3D.
What inspires you? (other art/artists, nature, people, etc.)
My art is inspired by systems. All of the different parts of a system and how everything can be viewed as a part of a system when you break it down into tangible parts. The process of deconstructing systems and analyzing the parts and the connections they have.
What opportunities have you experienced?
Just having the exposure to art growing up as a kid was really great. Having the tools and support from my family to do art and make things. When I was in the military I got to work on videos. I even did a mural in basic training instead of having to do guard duty. When I was deployed I made videos to send back to our families and loved ones, that was really fun. When I was in school I made a lot of professional connections and I’ve made a lot of connections here at ADX as well.
What obstacles have you faced?
I am my own obstacle sometimes. I can get in my own way. I overanalyze things a lot. Knowing when to stop thinking and when to do, and trust myself. Learning kinetic sculpture was a big challenge but it’s fun, too. Financial obstacles are a big one, too. Sourcing materials can be very expensive.
How do you make your art? (any patterns, rituals, routines, etc.)
I definitely am inspired by things more outside of the art world. Mostly ideas and concepts of the connections between things that you have not seen before. Which lead to material studies and ‘aha’ moments. I used to plan everything all out but now I just plan out the process and use it as a guideline. I try not to get too caught up in the vision I have and keep it more of an open-ended process.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on this installation as it’s changing and evolving to fit the space. I’m leading the design and build of the ADX print shop, where I will teach printing and bookbinding classes. I’m working on some commission pieces; a cash register stand for Kenton Bicycles, and trophies for Minneapolis and St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). I’m building a kitchen in my parents’ basement and also working on the fabrication team at ADX and teaching screenprinting.
What role do you think artists have in society?
An extremely important and understated role. Artists are often not immediately valued in society but they create the culture around us. Artists take a vision from their mind and turn it into a reality for everyone. Everything from graphic design and marketing advertisements to visual arts, music, video, photography, dance, and theater. Art is culture, the world would be so bland without it. Not all artists get the ability to be full-time artists, it takes dedication and it takes a community to make that possible.
What originally brought you to ADX?
Last year I was working on trophies for MSPIFF and needed access to a shop, which is how I found ADX. I was living in California at the time and going back and forth from there to Oregon where my family lives. When the commission was done I had fallen in love with ADX; the people, the place, the vibe. I quickly became a working member, started as an instructor in September, and then began working on the design and fabrication team in December. It has been nothing but wonderful opportunities.
You started as a paying member, were hired as a work-trade member, then got hired on as an instructor, and then a fabricator, and are now doing an art installation for ADX: Did you anticipate that you would become so involved in the community when you first started here?
I didn’t have expectations but when I moved here full-time I wanted very badly to find all the opportunities I could. It took some time, but I had a lot of family support to make it happen. I’m very happy this all worked out how I wanted it to, lucky that ADX has been so open to me and my ideas.
Do you have a favorite moment or experience since joining the community?
That’s a hard one, there have been so many. But I guess it would have to be when I was hired on as an instructor to teach screenprinting classes, which has led to many more opportunities. I love teaching, I come from a family of teachers so it’s in my blood. I enjoy the environment and to be able to teach here is fabulous.
Can you describe the “Theoretical Landscape 1.4” piece that you are installing at ADX and what it means to you?
Usually, it’s a mixed media install. Primarily composed of steel, a wall mural, and brass mechanisms from clock parts. It’s probably the second in my theoretical landscapes line of work, very busy with a heavy use of lines. This one (1.4) is the most busy iteration of this piece, playing around with composition. There are moments of high density and other moments that are less dense. The piece keeps the viewer’s eye active and moving constantly but to also think about how the repeated aesthetics are circularly connected.
Can you talk about the process behind making this piece?
I built it for my mid-program review in grad school as a kinetic sculpture. About half of it exists in it’s current setup. Originally it started from the top and worked its way down into the base. But the pedestals have since been removed.
What tools did you use?
It’s primarily steel – I used the MIG welder, metal bandsaw, and some mechanisms involved use of the plasma cutter. I also used steel forming and bending tools, involving building and additive processes of constructing.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge with any large kinetic installation is to get it all to work together. To have the movements go smoothly throughout since all of the moving parts are powered by a single motor. You get one part to work and then second part and so on but somewhere along the connections something didn’t work out so now the first part doesn’t work anymore and you have to go back and do a lot of problem solving.
This piece is actually a reinstallation, correct?
Yes, this is the fifth time. It was originally called ‘Theoretical Landscape 1.0.’ The title updates like software as the installation changes between spaces, configurations, and materials.
Can you talk about how it is changing to fit this new venue?
Each time it becomes a new piece, constantly evolving. It changes based on the needs, what fits and what doesn’t. I try not to get too attached to any part of it so that it can continue to change and evolve. This is the first time it is entirely mounted onto a wall. And it’s very high on the wall so structurally it was difficult to install as a whole piece. Scary thing trying to put this up there. But it’s so high you can see it from more angles. In it’s past four iterations it was on bases. Now the bases are removed and it’s turned on its side and mounted on the wall, so now the wall is the base. The biggest change is the orientation of it, which is giving it a new perspective.
Any advice for new, aspiring artists out there?
We are all, every single one of us in this world, just making shit up as we go along. There is no gospel, no playbook, no right or wrong. You learn more from your failures than from your successes. We just make it up as we go, in life and in art. Everything is building on experience. I find comfort and inspiration in knowing that.