Weird and wonderful…Brenton Hamilton at SMFA
I’ve written about Brenton Hamilton several times on this blog, the first being Feb. 11 2008 when I let you in on the secret of his incredibly satisfying class on the History of Photography available to community members for $15/week at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport. Brenton is the Director of the Certificate Program there.
Brenton was also a guest artist at VoxPhotographs in October, 2008 and that was my first real run-in with his work. I was surrounded by it for a month and the lines of the 12 images are permanently etched into my memory.
Hamilton’s work is, for many of us, weird and wonderful. I would be less than truthful if I wrote that I “understand” it. What I do understand is there is deep emotion embedded in it, his work is deeply personal and that he is driven to search for life’s truths, if that doesn’t sound too schmaltzy. Anyone who knows Brenton knows his unwavering intensity and genius.
Brenton’s work is featured at Susan Maasch Fine Art on Congress St. in Portland through to October 23. The fact that the work is on view for quite a bit of time allows us to stop in more than once to see what it holds for us on another day.
There are about a dozen framed pieces to view, and more the staff at SMFA can show you in a portfolio. I like very much that the pieces on view are very broad in process as well as subject. You’ll see Botanicals (cyanotypes), about 12″ in diameter Tondos (platinum and gum bichromate), and also five 19″x13″ prints that make a beautiful suite – their process includes cyanotype and gum washes on Arches Paper and the washes differ in color for the most part. There are several “stand alone” images including “Man of Stars” – a cyanotype and gum bichromate washes with silver and gold leaf.
To get you started a cyanotype is a process used to make photographs in the 1840′s and the blueprint process originates from it. Brenton coats watercolor paper repeatedly with iron salts and then exposes the sheets to intense sunlight (he tells me he waits until Maine’s long summer days to make his prints). Then he adds what makes them about as original as you can get: color washes, gum washes, watercolors, silver and gold leaf and other metals to get this broad expanse of final states.
Brenton and Obscura Press have published a beautiful book of dozens of his images titled “The Blue Poet Dreams” title and I wrote about it earlier this summer on this blog. A sample is available at SMFA to enjoy.
In “The Blue Poet Dreams” Brenton writes: “Taking the beauty of science…I pushed the very limits of the action of light upon salts on paper to build bridges between time, my imagination and the sun. I escaped into darkness. Fleeing this place to find another.” Why try and say it any better than that? And you’ll know what he means when you make your way to SMFA to see this show.