|About the Artist:
Al J. Hamilton is a photographer, filmmaker, and costume designer from Miami, Fl. She migrated to New York City in 2007 to pursue a career in fashion. With a passion for historic costume, Al left the fashion industry to pursue an M.A. in African-American Studies from Columbia University. There, she researched the gendered implications of Black Power dress and style. Al has designed and styled costumes for a number of African-American themed performances, including, most recently, an Off-Broadway play by the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Al is currently a Ph.D. student at New York University, where she is developing a project examining the Black body as a visual representation of resistance and radicalism through various methods of style and adornment. She is also directing and producing a film that discusses dress and body performance in queer-identified Black women.
I have always been fascinated by space. The concepts of aliens, extra-terrestrials, and possibilities of other forms of life enthralled me as a young child. As a girl, I imagined myself as George Clinton, sailing off in a P-Funk space ship to explore otherworldly life. Today, I find that I am doing exactly that.
As an artist, I attend to concepts of what I describe as "alien" blackness. As Marlon Riggs contemplated what blackness "is" and "ain't" during his artistic and earthly lifetime, I am interested in pushing the boundaries of black identity through the intimacies of the "alien" realms of afro-punk, black queer life, "alternative" spirituality, mental illness, sexual kink, and other non-normative conceptions of black existence. Evoking the aesthetics of Afrofuturism within my themes, I explore what it means to be an "alien" within the literally "extra-terrestrial" African Diaspora.
The mechanisms of photography, painting, installation, and costume design allow me to stretch the limits between pleasure and pain, kinship and estrangement, migration and citizenship, and to complicate notions of gender, sexuality, and the body. My work is recognized for its sharp contrast and vivid intricacies, which ferociously capture a subject's most interior emotions. The intense details of my candid photographs reveal subtle intimacies in a striking manner, whether in the strands of hair in a thick braid or an expression teetering between a wide smile and painful grimace. The knowing eyes of dementia, the wrinkled hands that clutch a loved one, the tensed muscles of a vogue pose, and the ugliness of painful, bloody scars are transformed from subtleties into hard-hitting visual candor. My photographs have often been described as "haunting," and it is in this vein that I rupture comfortable understandings of "normal" and "alien" life.