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During the month of June Carla Hamilton presented a show titled Durch Wasser rennen at Washington Gallery in the Central Hillside. Hamilton, who grew up in Wrenshall, left home at eighteen and went to Europe, ultimately living in Stuttgart for near eighteen years. She has been back Stateside since 2012 and currently resides in the Washington Studios downtown.
I’m impressed by the caliber of work being produced by several recent additions to our local arts community including Rodrigo Bello, Karen Nease and Esther Piszczek to name a few. Hamilton, who studied classical art techniques at the Freie Kunstschule, is a welcome addition.
Durch Wasser rennen means “running through water”, which she says is a metaphor for how she feels about current events in her personal life and in the world at large, specifically in the environmental sense.
The pre-show announcement spoke of her use of re-purposed materials. It turns out the variety of re-purposed materials was especially interesting, including shredded money. She did not shred her own cash, but rather used her own cash to purchase a bag of shredded bills which she put to to good use in some most interesting ways.
Much of her work clearly gives the impression that there is more going on than initially meets the eye. “There’s a backstory,” she agrees.
EN: How did you take up an interest in being an artist?
Carla Hamilton: It’s just always been there. When I was little I liked arranging things. Everything had to be pleasing to the eye.
EN: What is the Freie Kunstschule and what did you learn from your experiences there?
CH: I learned a lot of discipline. I learned how to not cry in front of professors. It was like boot camp. And I learned to always go further with my talent. Not necessarily with making everything covered, but to think further.
EN: Give me an example.
CH: I was told to draw a monkey without drawing a monkey. What I did was close my eyes and think of color and movement. I ended up drawing ochres and reds and yellows, like butterflies with lines. Go further… but I also learned that the absence of a material is also a presence.
EN: You work in a variety of media. Do you have a favorite?
CH: No, I don’t. They’re all my favorite. I don’t like that acrylic dries so fast, so I like oil.
EN: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re working on a piece?
CH: I watch documentaries while I work. On really dark themes. Life or death, the death penalty. I also listen to music.
EN: Fast or slow?
CH: It depends on the piece and the mood I’m in. Sometimes I listen to the same piece over and over to keep in the same mood.
I like the Black Keys right now. I’m very much into Motown and the Forties.
EN: Some of your pieces have so many layers. How do you know when you are finished with a piece?
CH: It whispers in my ear? I don’t know. I’m much better than I used to. I’ve ruined so many paintings (by going too far). I’m doing better with that, but it’s something I’ve had to learn.
EN: Do you have a ruling philosophical approach to your work? If so, what is it?
CH: My art saves me. It makes me think. It makes me grow. I’m not here to teach anyone a lesson, but if they get that out of my work I am O.K. with it.
A lot of women at my show are affected very emotionally. Some cry, or don’t know whether to cry or scream.
EN: Why do you think that is?
CH: Perhaps it’s the emotion that was put into it. Making my art helps me deal with this crazy world that we live in, and I’ve found out that I am actually pretty good at it.
EN: Do you find some of the pieces to be a form of problem solving? If yes, what problems are you currently working on?
CH: Staying sane. (laughs) Getting grounded.
I love making art. I don’t enjoy talking about it as much. Especially publicly. My art is very intimate to me and personal. Some are not for sale because they are too personal to me.
EN: Later this summer you will be returning to Germany and bringing more of your work back. What kinds of things will you be bringing?
CH: Huge portfolios, and hopefully some canvases. I did a lot of loose canvases because they’re easier to transport.
EN: Plans for the next year?
CH: My career goals are to build my portfolio in English [It is currently in German], get a website, shop for some galleries, maybe in Minneapolis and Chicago.
EN: Where did you show your work in Germany?
CH: Freusse, a suburb just outside of Stuttgart. I sold a few pieces, watercolors. I was in a couple group shows as well. My image is used in some art, also… It was interesting.