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Tribute to Ed Hamilton

Carnegie Center exhibit examines
sculptor’s life through monuments

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (December 2006) – When one looks at an Ed Hamilton sculpture, he may feel as if he is face-to-face with an historical figure who has suddenly sprung to life. His creations mimic reality so closely that one could almost feel Booker T. Washington or Joe Louis’ breath as you stare at their bronze features.
Hamilton is the subject of an exhibit on display at the Carnegie Center for Art and

Ed Hamilton

Photo provided

Ed Hamilton works on
the Booker T. Washington sculpture in Virginia.
Many samples of his work
can be seen through
December at the Carnegie Center in New Albany, Ind.

History, 201 E. Spring St. in New Albany, Ind. The Carnegie Center for Art and History is a department of the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library.
On display until Dec. 30, “Ed Hamilton: The Making of a Man and a Monument” explores his evolution as an artist.
“It speaks to the making of my monuments over the last 30 years,” said Hamilton in a late November telephone interview. The exhibit explains the process of becoming an artist by “showing you how I do these things.” Hamilton, 59, sees it as a sort of mini-retrospect on his work.
Beginning with his graduation from Shawnee High School in 1965, it progresses to his graduation from Louisville Art Center School in 1969, the Louisville Art Workshop from 1969 to 1973, and attendance at the University of Louisville and Spalding College, said center director Laura Wilkins. Hamilton’s acquaintance with the late Louisville sculpture Barney Bright in 1973 “really opened the door of sculpting for him,” said Wilkins.
The exhibit examines five different monuments created by Hamilton, the most famous being the Civil War-themed “Spirit of Freedom.” This monument was dedicated in 1998 in Washington, D.C., in honor of the African American troops who fought in the Civil War and their families. Dr. Dario Covi, professor emeritus of the Allen R. Hite Art Institute of the University of Louisville, became involved as a guest curator for this exhibit.
The exhibit displays different items from five monuments Hamilton created between 1982 and 2003, said Wilkins. In addition to Spirit of Freedom, other sculptures included are the Booker T. Washington Memorial in Virginia, the Joe Louis Memorial in Detroit, The Armistat Memorial in Connecticut, and the York Memorial in Louisville. York was the slave who accompanied famed explorers Lewis and Clark on their westward journey.
Each section of the exhibit contains panels with photographs depicting Hamilton’s creation of the monument. His autobiography, “The Birth of an Artist,” “was used quite extensively for the exhibit,” said Wilkinson.

Hamilton's York Memorial

Photo provided

Hamilton’s
“York Memorial” is
dedicated to the slave
who accompanied Lewis
and Clark on their
westward journey.

After the “Spirit of Freedom” dedication, Hamilton decided to write a coffee table book about the creation of the monument. But the result was an autobiography because readers wanted to know more about him and who he really was.
Hamilton said he “grew up in the heart of the downtown Louisville district.” Everything around him was physical, which may account for his fascination with sculpting, a 3-dimensional artform.
“I love the physicality of it all,” said Hamilton about sculpting. While a painter can create a form or 2-dimensional plane, the viewer cannot actually touch it like he can a sculpture.
Hamilton was approached by his friend, James Holmberg, Curator of Special Collections for The Filson Club in Louisville, to sculpt York, William Clark’s slave. To research York, who was a vital part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803 to 1805, Holmberg gave him a copy of “In Search of York: The Slave Who Went to the Pacific with Lewis and Clark” by Robert Betts.
“I devoured it to get an idea of what this man was all about,” said Hamilton.

• For more information on the exhibit, visit: www.carnegiecenter.org.

Back to December 2006 Articles.

 

 

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